Senegal: President to change constitution to seek lifetime in office?

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Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is almost as old as the 85 year old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and although he has not ruled half the time his Zimbabwean counterpart has spent at the helm of his country’s affairs, he could nonetheless spend the rest of his life as president. Thursday, the 83 year old president announced his candidacy for the forthcoming presidential election, which is about two and a half years away. The Senegalese leader discussed his political future in an interview: “If God gives me long life… I will run for president” again. His statement, needless to say, has sparked outrage among the opposition in the western African country. If Abdoulaye Wade wants to run for office in 2012 at age 86, he will have to change the constitution, which limits him to only two-terms.

“I will run for office in 2012, Inch Allah (God willing).” Two and a half years ahead of the next election, the 83 year old Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, clearly revealed his political intention to seek a third consecutive term, Thursday. “If God gives me long life … and good health, I will run for president”, he said Thursday night in an interview broadcast on Voice of America from the United States where he was on a visit. In recent times, members of the ruling PDS (Democratic Party of Senegal) have increased their calls for a new term for President Wade, arguing that he is the only one capable of uniting the liberal camp. These “calls have been masterminded by the president’s office,” said Mustapha Niasse, leader of the Alliance of Progress Forces (AFP), as he joined a chorus of protests against Wade’s decision.

“I have the right to be president. There are those who want democracy and yet who are not Democrats in Senegal. Let’s allow the Senegalese people to decide. Everyone is allowed to participate. The game is open. We are in a democracy,” the Senegalese President carefully directed his words to his critics during the interview.

Wade and his son

Abdoulaye Wade also took advantage of the interview to defend his son, who has been criticised for his management of the National Organization of Islamic Conference (ANOC) in the investigative book Contes et Mécomtes of ANOCI, written by Abdou Latif Coulibaly, a journalist. Karim Wade is under suspicion of embezzling funds from the Agency. “He did not siphon anything. These people attacking Karim are acting in bad faith just because they want to attack me. Karim is not the financial Manager of the ANOC. He plays no role in the handling of money,” pleaded the President, subtly suggesting a link between the fraud suspicions and Abdoulaye Balde, executive director of the Agency.

The Senegalese president’s announcement to run for a third term in 2012 is “one more time one too much,” states the offended Senegalese Socialist Party (PS), which remained at the helm of state affairs from independence until 2000 when Abdoulaye Wade came to power. “He runs on popular assent, the opposition could not have a better opponent because he has not achieved any results. The economy is ruined, fallen flat to the ground, people are suffering and the institutions are mishandled,” said PS spokesman, Aissata Tall Sall.

The announcement of Mr. Wade’s candidacy negates comments from many observers on the Senegalese political scene who suggested that Karim Wade, his son, was being groomed to take over from him. As for the ambitions of Idrissa Seck, former prime minister and unsuccessful 2007 presidential candidate, — who fell from grace for a while before returning into the bosom of the PDS – there is every chance that he stands as Mr. Wade’s “running mate” in 2012, claims the online daily

To run for president for a third time, the Senegalese president has no choice but to dismantle the constitutional limit, which allows for only two mandates for a Head of State. Many of his African counterparts have already gone that dirty road. If Mr. Wade stands for president, he would clearly be seekinf a lifetime in office.

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