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After violent protests against his bid for a third term, the octogenarian leader of Senegal attempts to show that he is not so unpopular after all.
Attempting to win a third term in elections this month, Senegal’s embattled President Abdoulaye Wade today led an impromptu evening rally through the streets of Dakar, according to The Associated Press.
Wade, 85, called reporters to the presidential palace from where his motorcade led them through neighborhoods in the capital that were until recently paralyzed with burning tires and protest aginst his presidency.
The rally followed by only a few hours an opposition march led by pop star Youssou Ndour who called for Wade’s departure, the news agency reported. (Ndour’s candidacy has been invalidated due to a lack of petitions.)
According to the AP, the rally was an attempt to show that Wade still had popular support but it drew crowds that were smaller than the ones he used to attract.
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Thousands came out to great the president, some applauding and running after his motorcade, according to the AP, including in the neighborhood known as Niari-Tally, once a Wade stronghold that is now a center of opposition to him.
Wade, Senegal’s third and current president, announced last year that he would seek a third term. After a court approved his candidacy last month, Senegal has seen violent protest. The constitution was revised in 2001 by Wade himself to impose a limit of two terms on the presidency.
According to the AP, tens of thousands would once greet Wade during his 25 years as the head of the country’s opposition.
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"You came outside. What is your impression?" Wade was quoted as asking reporters upon returning to the palace. "As you saw, it was an improvised visit, but I think it's clear that it was a plebiscite of the street. ... The people came out and greeted me spontaneously. This shows that the people of Senegal are with me," he said.
According to Reuters, the main opposition figures signed a pact on Saturday promising to campaign together to pressure Wade to step down ahead of the vote on Feb. 26.
"We will take part in the election campaign in order to step up the fight ... to force the withdrawal of the candidacy of Abdoulaye Wade," a document signed by eight of Wade's rivals read, according to Reuters.