- Senegalese lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favour of a bill that seeks to extend the presidential mandate from five to seven years. The bill will not benefit incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade.
The amendment of Article 27 of the Senegalese constitution should get the approval of the senate, congress and President Wade before it becomes a law.
President Wade, 82, gained re-election for a five-year mandate in 2007 after sweeping 14 other contestants in the polls. The new law will take effect in 2012 when his current mandate expires.
But according to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Madické Niang who tables the bill before deputies, Mr Wade still has the opportunity to constest the 2012 presidential polls if he so wishes.
"Don't think that the President cannot participate in the 2012 presidential race. After all, he is a citizen, and if his health allows him, nothing prohibits him from standing for the polls," the Justice Minister clarifies.
Considering the overwhelming majority of President Wade's ruling Parti Democratic Senegalaise in parliament and senate, it is common knowledge that the proposed law's enactment will not be hindered.
Opposition groups have denounced the new development in totality, and insist that such a crucial constitutional amendment should have been tabled for a referendum instead. A handful of national assembly members also have reservations for the proposed amendment, arguing that key players need to be consulted before the bill goes to parliament.
Mr Niang said the amendment is a necessity because of the government's inability to implement its priorities on time, and argues that "a referendum has never been used in Senegal to amend the presidential term of office."
He responds to claims that the Senegalese constitution has butchered so many times in recent years, defending that this cannot be compared to France, where President Sarkozy has effected more than 60 reforms within a year.
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