Senegal held it’s much anticipated referendum on Sunday and a lot was at stake for one basic reason. When President Macky Sall had been campaigning for the Presidency, along with the usual promises of provision of jobs and the likes, he had promised to cut short Presidential term limits from seven years to five years, starting with his own.
He had won the elections and did become the President. Expectations were high both in Senegal and among outsiders who sought to see the fulfillment of this promise (in a time where other African nations like Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Burundi and even Congo were seeking to or had already succeeded in extending term limits in their own countries) the promise held a special attraction.
President Macky Sall did indeed start the process but failed in the attempt to cut his own term limit after the country’s highest court apparently ruled against the plan. Everyone’s expectations were deflated. Although he had immediately announced the referendum that was to hold on the 20th of March and would put to a vote the slashing of term limits for every President after him alongside other proposed changes for a new constitution, the prospect had lost a huge chunk of it’s allure. The people had wanted, possibly needed for it to start with him, they had needed to see a leader who was true to his words.
His critics made full use of the opportunity presented and encouraged the rest of the citizens to utilize the opportunity presented by the referendum to display their displeasure at the president. The people where in essence encouraged to vote “no” to the question of slashing term limits. What a funny thought. A “no” may have left the President politically weakened and effectively shown the people’s displeasure, but in the long run they would have had to continue dealing with the negatives of long-serving leaders.
So what did the people vote? Did they allow their reduced pleasure to get the better of them? No, thankfully they did not. 63% of the voters approved the changes proposed by the President in Sunday’s referendum, although turnout for voting was low at just 38%. Other interesting changes voted for in the new constitution include;
- Limit on the age of Presidential candidates to 75 and independents are allowed to run
- Reaffirmation of the limit to two presidential terms
- The opposition leader gets a status recognized by the constitution and enjoys official benefits
- Local councils will get more powers
- New rights for citizens which include; right to a healthy environment and over natural resources and land ownership