Senegalese gov't drops controversial amendment to Constitution amid tense protests

13:57, June 24, 2011      

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The Senegalese government on Thursday dropped a proposed change to the West African country's Constitution amid protects in which 10 people were injured.

Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy said President Abdoulaye Wade decided to withdraw the proposal in response to multiple appeals from religious leaders and lawmakers of the majority in parliament.

The decision came hours after Senegalese police in Dakar clashed with hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the proposed change to the electoral code, which would lower the percentage of votes a winning candidate needs to avoid a run- off to 25 percent.

The proposal is expected to clear the way for the Senegal's incumbent Wade, 86, in his re-election of the country's president a third time in 2012.

The amendment is also feared to become a mechanism for Wade's son to succeed power as it sets the post of vice president, who would take over power in absence of the head of state. The parliament speaker will assume the presidency in that case if the Constitution remains unchanged.

The proposed change angered the opposition, which holds only a small portion of seats in parliament. The protesters, upholding banners reading "Do not touch my Constitution" and "No (to the change)", have been demonstrating outside Senegal's parliament building since Wednesday. Sources said the injured included a police official.

Senegal's National Assembly (parliament) is due to vote on the constitutional change on Thursday.

Unconfirmed reports said President Wade had withdrew the proposed change to the election law to ease the anger of the opposition.

Government spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye was quoted by the reports as saying that President Wade had decided that no one could emerge as a winner in the first round of presidential election without 50 percent of the votes.

Senegal's presidential elections will be held on Feb. 26, 2012. Wade, who was first elected in the year 2000 and re-elected in 2007, previously announced he would not seek a third term in office.

Two other candidates, Madam Amsatou Sow Sidibe and Ibrahim Fall, who once served as the country's foreign minister, have already announced their candidature.

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