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Senegal votes in referendum seen as test of president's popularity

Mar 24, 2016 Senegal recently held a referendum that is expected to usher in major constitutional reforms. The vote, which was proposed by President Macky Sall, has been viewed as a popularity test.

Amongst other things, the vote seeks to reduce the presidential terms to five years from seven, starting after the next election in 2019.

The vote also aims to limit the age of presidential candidates to 75 and allow independent candidates to run for presidency.

According to president Sall, the reforms are vital to bolster Senegal’s already stable democracy.

Senegal votes in referendum seen as test of president's popularity

In the capital Dakar, some voters lauded Sall for pushing for democratic reforms on a continent where many leaders try to hold on to power.

Aliouw Mara Apr insisted that Senegalese were strongly behind President Sall for his maturity.

“The people of Senegal are behind president Macky Sall. We have demonstrated our democratic maturity, and the people of Senegal have made a sober choice, because the people have understood that the 15 reforms put across by president Macky Sall for the referendum will benefit the people,”

Senegal votes in referendum seen as test of president's popularity

Another citizen, Boubacar Manga, said:

“The president has responded to the call of the Senegalese people, and that is why he massively won against the opposition. For me personally, I voted yes because I have seen the ambitious projects that he has under taken for Senegal and especially fighting for the reinforcement of democracy in Senegal,”

As laudable as the referendum is, Seyni Ndiayem a political analyst expressed his reservations saying:

“All in all, democracy in Senegal was reinforced, but we must point out that some of these measures are limiting and could in the long run hurt our democratic reforms. One of the reforms that we hoped would change was a clear separation between a president leading a country and simultaneously being the head of a political party. From that point of view, that absence of separation in those two roles constitute a major disappointment in this referendum,”

Some of the other proposed changes in the new constitution include providing greater rights for the opposition, strengthening the National Assembly and boosting of independent candidates in elections

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