Senegal’s President Macky Sall has met with 500 of the country’s most influential Islamic leaders to persuade them to back the presidential term reduction referendum set for March 20, 2016.
Mr Sall at the weekend met with leaders from Touba, Tivaouane, Ndiassane, Médina Baye,Yoff Layenne, Digane, Thiénéba among others at the presidential palace.
State-run Le Soleil newspaper reported on Saturday that Mr Sall succeeded in convincing the leaders to persuade millions of their followers to vote for a ‘yes’.
Muslim leaders and particularly those from the holy cities of Touba and Tivaouane are very influential in Senegalese politics.
In the past, they imposed a “ndiguel” or a mandatory vote order on their subject for the candidates of the clergy’s choice and the order will be executed to the letter.
The term reduction plebiscite from seven to five years is tearing the political and civil society groups apart.
Mr Sall like his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade, had promised the reduction but failed to go by it.
During his presidential campaign in 2012, Mr Sall accused ex-President Wade of failing to reduce the term and said he would do so upon election but has failed.
Last month, he argued that a decision by the Constitutional Court forced him to renege on his unilateral decision to reduce the term and subject it to a referendum.
But a large portion of the divided opposition and the civil society movement have rebutted President Sall’s argument, calling it a “hoax and a farce”.
The civil society movement, which also seem divided, is twinning with the large divisions in the opposition to vote ‘no’ as long as Mr Sall failed to reduce the term during his first mandate.
But analysts believe that a ‘yes’ vote from the influential clerics and their followers will finally reduce the term as of 2019.
Meanwhile, the government has validated all expired national and voter cards to allow a massive vote, which will also be done abroad especially in France, Italy and Spain.
Earlier, Mr Sall explained that Wisemen had insisted that it would be unconstitutional if he curtailed his term to five years as opposed to the seven as stipulated by the constitution.
He then went on to announce that a national referendum will take place on March 20, 2016 to decide on whether the mandate will be reduced from seven to five years.