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Clashes continue in Senegal ahead of elections

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:02 PM EST, Sat February 18, 2012
Protesters stand near a burning barricade as they clash with riot police in Dakar on February 18, 2012.
Protesters stand near a burning barricade as they clash with riot police in Dakar on February 18, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police and anti-government protesters clash in the capital
  • One presidential candidate suffers a head injury
  • The opposition does not want the president to run for a third term

(CNN) -- Police and anti-government protesters in Senegal clashed for a second straight day Saturday, just over a week before the country is set to vote in presidential elections, state media reported.

Dozens of people were injured when police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, Agence de Presse Senegalaise reported. One of those injured was Cheikh Bamba Dieye, a presidential candidate for the Socialism and Democracy Front. Party officials told APS that Dieye was "assaulted by police ... and was left with a head injury."

Police confirmed Dieye was injured, saying the incident occurred while the candidate was taking part in an unauthorized demonstration, according to APS. Protests have been banned in downtown Dakar.

At least four people have died in protests in Senegal since January 27, when the country's highest court, the Constitutional Council, cleared President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, to run for a third term, government officials have said. The opposition says that the court was compromised and the constitution limits presidents to two terms. Wade has been in office since 2000.

A court ruled in his favor last month after the incumbent argued that he is exempt because he took office before the term limit was put in place.

Similar clashes broke out after Friday prayers in the Muslim-majority country when police blocked protesters from reaching the capital's Place de L'Independence.

In addition to their opposition to Wade's candidacy, some protesters are also demanding that the Constitutional Council allow three independent candidates, including Grammy-winning musician Youssou N'Dour, to seek the presidency.

The court rejected their candidacies last month in the same ruling that granted Wade and 13 others spots on the February 26 ballot.

It ruled that the three rejected candidates had failed to gather 10,000 valid signatures.

The opposition June 23 Movement, or M23, is named after the date of protests last summer that forced Wade to withdraw a constitutional amendment that would have nearly guaranteed his victory in this month's election.

West Africa has a history of political strife, but Senegal has largely maintained peace and has never experienced a military coup.

CNN's Amir Ahmed and journalist Nick Loomis in Dakar contributed to this report.

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