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Senegalese MPs approve reform that would scrap post of prime minister

Seyllou, AFP | Senegalese President Macky Sall delivers a speech on April 2, 2019.

Senegalese MPs on Saturday overwhelmingly approved a reform that would eliminate the post of prime minister, a move the opposition slams as a "democratic setback" and an attempt by President Macky Sall to concentrate power.

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Senegalese lawmakers on Saturday approved a constitutional reform to scrap the post of prime minister, the first initiative of President Macky Sall's second term in office.

The motion passed with 124 MPs voting in favour and only seven against, National Assembly president Moustapha Niasse said Saturday evening after a nine-hour debate.

The government approved the measure last month before sending it to the parliament where the presidential party enjoys a majority.

Sall, who was comfortably re-elected in February, announced the plan in early April, telling the prime minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, to abolish his own job.

The move was a surprise as it had not been part of Sall's re-election campaign.

On Saturday, lawmakers also backed legislative changes aimed at preventing the president from dissolving the National Assembly, which in turn can no longer table a motion of no confidence against the government.

Justice Minister Malick Sall said the changes were "purely technical and administrative".

"The goal is not to increase the powers of the president of the republic," he told MPs.

Opposition parties have denounced the constitutional amendments.

"It's a democratic setback. You can't concentrate powers in the hands of one person," said Toussaint Manga, who heads an opposition group founded by supporters of former president Abdoulaye Wade.

Sall has been in power since 2012 and secured 58 percent of the popular vote in the recent election.

A self-proclaimed social liberal -- despite a flirtation with Maoism in his youth -- Sall has described, in his autobiography published last November, a slow, steady rise from a modest background all the way to the top, despite a stint in the political wilderness.

But critics argue that such single-mindedness has made Sall willing to bend the rules to get what he wants.

(AFP)

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