Bloomberg News

Senegal Drops President Vote Clause as Police Halt Protests

June 23, 2011

(Updates with Eurobond price in fourth paragraph, analyst comment in fifth, activist injured in sixth.)

     June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade scrapped a plan that would have lowered the threshold of votes needed to win the presidency after two days of protests in the capital, Dakar.

Protesters burned a government-owned vehicle in front of the National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating the constitutional amended today, said witness Ahmed Deme. Police used tear gas and fire hoses to disperse demonstrators.

Senegal will retain its current system where candidates need 50 percent of the vote plus one to win the presidency, Agence de Presse Senegalaise reported today, citing Justice Minister Chiekh Tidjane Sy. An earlier proposal would have required a winner to get 25 percent of all registered voters at the February 2012 election. The amendment will also create the position of vice president.

Senegal’s 8.75 percent Eurobonds, due 2021, declined for a fourth straight day, dropping 0.6 percent to 103.895 cents on the dollar by 6:12 p.m. in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield rose to the highest in a month at 8.165 percent.

“The fact that Wade backed down under public pressure shows this isn’t an administration that’s immune to the will of its people,” said Philippe de Pontet, director of the Africa Department at Eurasia Group. “The risk President Wade runs is that, as we saw in North Africa, once a president starts offering concessions, that can spur demand for greater concessions,” he said by phone from Washington today.

Injuries

Alioune Tine, the secretary-general of Raddho, a human- rights group based in Dakar, was injured and taken to hospital during the protests, APS reported. The home of an official with the ruling Parti Democratique Senegalaise was ransacked and another residence burned, the press agency said.

Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye, a spokesman for Wade, was in a meeting and unable to comment when reached on his mobile phone today. Colonel Alioune Ndiaye, a spokesman for the Senegalese police, declined to comment when contacted.

Senegal has had democratic rule since it attained independence from France in 1960 and has never had a government ousted in a coup d’etat.     That reputation helped the country attract buyers for the $500 million in Eurobonds sold last month, said Samir Gadio, an emerging markets analyst with Standard Bank Group Ltd.     “The strong selling point of Senegal has been that the country has had a relatively democratic system over the last 35 years or so,” Gadio said by phone yesterday.

The political uncertainty may not immediately affect the price of the debt, which is “still trading relatively wide compared to its peers,” he said. “That said, it might be an issue in the medium term if these relatively negative signals become a trend as we head into the elections.”

--Editors: Emily Bowers, Philip Sanders, Antony Sguazzin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Drew Hinshaw in Dakar via Accra at ebowers1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.


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