Senegal’s Wade withdraws poll bill as protests rage

DAKAR, (Reuters) – Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade  backed down on a proposed change to the election rules yesterday, completely withdrawing a bill that sparked violent  clashes between riot police and protesters in the capital.

Wade’s rivals said the proposed change would have guaranteed  his re-election against a fragmented opposition in a February  poll and had threatened a popular uprising over it in a country  long seen as an island of stability in West Africa.

Abdoulaye Wade

By nightfall the violence had mostly eased but the centre of  the city was scattered with rocks and the smouldering carcasses  of burned out cars.

A police source said at least 12 policemen  were amongst the more than 100 injured during the violence.

Analysts said the reversal also showed how effectively the  opposition and civil society groups could mobilise anti-Wade  sentiment amid simmering social tensions in the country.

“The president received messages from far afield, especially  our religious leaders, and, as a result, he called on me to  withdraw the law,” Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy told the  National Assembly.

Wade had earlier withdrawn a proposal to reduce from 50 to  25 percent the minimum score that a candidate would need to win  next year’s election in the first round — a level Wade’s rivals  said would have virtually assured him a first-round win against  his fractured opposition.

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