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Wade proposes early presidential elections

Senegal may hold early elections after President Abdoulaye Wade proposed moving next February’s scheduled election to an earlier date following criticism from the opposition. He said, however, that he “remains committed” to the current timetable.


AFP - Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade on Thursday proposed moving up a presidential election set for February 26, 2012, in a speech to the nation as his regime faces mounting criticism.

If "the opposition is in a hurry and sure" it will win, "I can see an early presidential election, if that is necessary for social cohesion and national harmony," said Wade, in front of members of his government.

He said the constitution provides for an early presidential election within "a minimum of 40 days and a maximum of 60 days" of a decision to hold it.

"If the opposition wants it, we can have an election in 40 days," he said, adding he remained committed to respecting the current timetable.

"If at the end of an early election the population places its trust in someone other than me, I will congratulate him. But in both cases (early or scheduled vote), I am afraid that there will be no winner but me," he added.

"I will enter the arena and I will win," he said, denouncing the opposition for attempting to rally religious leaders and European countries by saying his candidacy "would lead to instability."

He nevertheless said he was "ready to begin a dialogue on any subject", adding his objective was to achieve peaceful elections.

His speech comes three weeks after unprecedented riots broke out on June 23, injuring about 100 people, over his efforts to change election laws.

The amendments would have added a vice president to the presidential ticket for next year's polls, and dropped the winning threshold for a first-round victory to 25 percent of votes from the current 50 percent.

It would also see the vice president take over automatically in case of the president's death or resignation and was seen as an effort by Wade to ensure his son Karim Wade would suceed him.

Under pressure from the streets, the law was eventually shelved.

Wade said it was likely the law had not been properly explained, and he had had "the sincere intention to reinforce our democracy's institutions."

"We did not think the protests, which are a normal expression of a difference of opinion, would lead to violence," he said, adding this was why they had not been forbidden, calling this a "miscalculation."

Further riots broke out four days later amid crippling power cuts which lasted for days on end, in which angry residents burned public buildings and several offices of national power company Senelec.

Referring to "fires, looting and pillaging" Wade said he had every reason to believe this was an operation planned by vandals, as nothing could justify these actions.

"I will continue to steer our country against all odds. I warn those who want to continue to disrupt public order, we will deal with any ambitions to destabilize our country."

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