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.
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Wade had earlier withdrawn a proposal to reduce from 50 to 25 percent the minimum score that a candidate would need to win next year’s election in the first round — a level Wade’s rivals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.