Friday, January 27, 2012

Senegal Court Says President Wade Can Run Again

January 27, 2012

Senegal Court Says President Can Run Again

New York Times

DAKAR, Senegal — Senegal’s elderly president can run for a third term next month, according to a ruling Friday night by the nation’s constitutional court, which also threw out the candidacy of the popular music star Youssou N’Dour.

The decision, which appears to contradict a two-term limit in Senegal’s Constitution, could provoke a renewal of last summer’s street clashes between young opponents of the president, Abdoulaye Wade, and Senegal’s police. Already Friday night there were reports that the police were using tear gas and batons to disperse youthful protesters in the normally peaceful capital.

Mr. Wade, officially 85 but believed to be older, has become the focus of youthful discontent in a coastal nation of high unemployment and widespread poverty; in his 11 years in power, Senegal’s place on the United Nations Human Development Index — a measure of living standards, life expectancy, literacy and education — has hardly budged.

Yet Senegal had also maintained its reputation for vigilantly sticking to democratic rules, particularly compared with its turbulent West African neighbors, with a peaceful handoff of power in 2000, when Mr. Wade was first elected, and elections generally judged fair.

His critics say Mr. Wade has damaged that reputation with his determination to stay in power despite the constitutional limit. On Friday night, the court — whose head was appointed by Mr. Wade — gave a major boost to the president’s hopes for the election, to be held Feb. 26. He faces three of his own former prime ministers, among other candidates.

At the same time, the constitutional court apparently pushed aside one of Mr. Wade’s leading critics, Mr. N’Dour, a top-selling singer popular worldwide. Mr. N’Dour has been outspoken for several years in denouncing what he and others say are the president’s authoritarian tendencies. He has written songs decrying the failings of Mr. Wade’s rule, including frequent power failures, and has built a small media empire in Senegal that serves as a voice for opposition to the president.

It was not immediately clear why the court did not include the singer on its list of approved candidates — a decision confirmed on Mr. N’Dour’s own television station Friday night. But the move seemed likely to further inflame youths in Dakar’s volatile suburbs, whose opposition to Mr. Wade has coalesced into a civil society movement that earlier Friday filled a central city square here with protesters.

Late Friday night, Senegalese television showed the square, the Place de l’Obélisque, still packed with angry opponents of the president.

Mr. Wade, an accomplished lawyer who spent decades as an opposition leader himself, has a reputation for self-assurance. Earlier this week he airily dismissed his critics, as he often does, in an interview published on the Web site “The constitution, it’s me that wrote it. All by myself. Nobody knows it better than me.”

No comments: