By Barnaby Phillips in Africa
For more than a year, opposition supporters in some of sub-Saharan Africa's more repressive countries have hoped that the wave of pro-democracy protests will spread south from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
By and large, the wait has been in vain. There is some irony in that the latest candidate mooted for "people power" is Senegal, one of the few African countries with a genuine democratic tradition in the post-independence era.
Senegal has strong institutions, and is the only country in west Africa never to have suffered a military coup.
The current president, Abdoulaye Wade, first come to power in 2000 when he defeated the incumbent in one of the most exciting and transparent African elections of the post-independence era.
But now, to the fury of many, Senegal's constitutional court has ruled that Wade will be allowed to run for a third term in presidential elections due at the end of this month.
The court decided that Senegal's two-term limit does not apply to Mr Wade, because it took effect after he became president. (In fact, he introduced it himself.)
This sophistry certainly appears to be in violation of the spirit with which term-limits were conceived, whatever one makes of opposition accusations that the constitutional court is manipulated by Mr Wade.
The court has also ruled that the world-famous singer Youssou N'dour cannot stand as president, because of concerns about the alleged authenticity of the signatures on his application form.
When I met Youssou N'dour in Dakar, he was angry. He describes the court's decisions as "a constitutional coup".
He appealed to the international community "to speak sense to Wade, otherwise we'll have a catastrophe in this country".
It is true there have been riots in several cities, and the clumsy police response has made an already volatile situation even worse.
But, I have to say, my feeling during five days in and around Dakar was that a popular uprising in Senegal is not imminent.
For a start, the opposition is divided, and somewhat confused.
Some believe that Wade is beatable in the elections, and want to get on with the campaign. N'dour, on the other hand, believes the process is a sham, but even he is not advocating a boycott of the polls.
Wade, who is believed to be 85 years old, shows a depressing determination to cling onto power.
My friend Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, a long term Dakar resident, writes here how his star has faded.
There are superficial similarities with some of the dictators of the Arab world who have been toppled in the past year; a partiality for garish monuments, the apparent grooming of a son as a successor, and the constitutional meddling.
Another similarity is the huge number of unemployed, frustrated young men in the cities.
But there are also differences. Wade is not a vicious dictator. Senegal has a more open tradition of parliamentary democracy than Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and, in fact, just about every Arab country.
The next few weeks will be crucial.
The presidential elections are due on February 26. The country is divided. There is the risk of a violent campaign and a disputed election.
Never mind superficial comparisons with the Arab Spring; the real story is that Senegal's democratic credentials are under threat.
Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License