The political barometer in Senegal is getting higher and tenser by the day as the country approaches a crucial referendum scheduled to be held on March 20 on 15 proposals for amendment of the Constitution submitted by President Macky Sall. It would be recalled that during his campaign for the presidential elections in 2012, President Sall made an undertaking that if elected, he was going to reduce the present seven-year presidential mandate to five years. Ever since he was elected in 2012, he had been repeating that promise both locally and at international forums. However, at the beginning of this year, he sought the advice of the Constitutional Council, which is Senegal’s highest body for interpretation of the Constitution, for its take on his wish to reduce his mandate. In its response, the Constitutional Council said while he could reduce the mandate to five years, he could not do so with his current term as he swore to serve seven years and as such, he has no power to change that to five years and that it can only come into effect in the next term after it is approved in a referendum.
That pronouncement by the Constitutional Council caused quite a lot of disappointment amongst some members of the opposition who were apparently anticipating for a shorter mandate and therefore many of them were preparing for elections in 2017.
While the presidential majority, comprising the ruling Alliance Pour la Republique (APR) and its allies like the former ruling Parti Socialiste (PS) and Alliance des Forces de Progres(AFP) of parliamentary Speaker Moustapha Niasse, are all busy campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote, a majority of the opposition parties, such as Abdoulaye Wade’s Parti Democratique Senegalais (PDS) and Idrissa Seck’s Rewmi, together with some civil society groups such as the popular rap group, Y’en a Marre(Enough is Enough), as well as a few dissidents from the ruling Bennoo Bokk Yaakaar (BBY) Coalition, have joined forces in a loose grouping called Niani Bangna, with the sole objective of campaigning for a ‘No’ vote.