Tue, Feb 28, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Senegal headed for run-off vote

SUSPENSE:Abdoulaye Wade’s protege Macky Sall had a strong showing and has gained 21% of the vote compared with the incumbent’s 24%, according to unofficial results

AFP and Reuters, Dakar

Senegal looked headed for a second round of voting in a fraught election in which Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is seeking a disputed third term, local media and opposition candidates said yesterday.

However, the 85-year-old leader’s camp warned it was too early to note a significant trend.

Former Wade protege Macky Sall, a former prime minister, was making a strong showing in unofficial results trickling in from polling stations.

“The figures in our possession, published in the media, and the trends from polling stations show that a second round is inevitable,” the 51-year-old said in a statement published on his Web site.

“We have won the biggest departments in the country. We have won in each of the four departments in the Dakar region,” Sall said. “I warn the sorcerer’s apprentices against any attempt to confiscate the people’s will. The massive rejection of the outgoing president has been shown in the results.”

Sall is taking part in elections for the first time. The mayor of the western city of Fatick fell out of favor with his former mentor Wade in 2008 after serving in several ministerial portfolios and as prime minister.

Sall was among several opposition figures active in Senegal’s M23 protest movement, named after an anti-Wade riot on June 23 last year, that organized near-daily demonstrations in the run-up to Sunday’s vote.

In a polling station in central Dakar, its walls brightly painted with cartoon characters, Cheikh Angai rooted for a Sall victory.

“He will win, no problem. He is a dignified and a serious man. Wade is too old, he has done a good job, but now he must leave,” he said.

The country has been in suspense over who the main contender would be in a wide-open field of 13 opposition candidates, with Sall named among three other big guns as the best placed to take on the incumbent.

However, El Hadj Amadou Sall of the incumbent’s campaign team warned there were “no heavy trends” and nothing indicated that there would be a second round of voting.

Wade is seeking a third term in office after circumventing a two-term limit he introduced into the Constitution. He says changes extending term lengths from five to seven years made in 2008 allow him a fresh mandate.

The country’s highest court upheld his argument, which sparked a month of riots in one of Africa’s most stable nations, leaving six dead.

The defiant leader was roundly booed as he cast his ballot at his own polling station on Sunday, where early results show he was trounced by another former prime minister, Moustapha Niasse, with Macky Sall placing third.

Partial unofficial results published by Web site SUNU2012, which has been aggregating figures from volunteers at individual polling stations throughout the nation, showed Wade with about 24 percent, ahead of Macky Sall’s 21 percent, with 10 percent of the ballots counted.

Niasse, 72, another former ally of Wade’s, said that given the results so far, Wade could not win in the first round, adding that a coalition against Wade in the second round was a must.

“Whatever the personality of the candidate who will face him [Wade] in the second round ... in any case, stopping Wade is an imperative, it is a necessity, this is a must,” Niasse said on RFI radio.

Prospects could change rapidly, however, as Wade claims strong support in rural areas of the country where figures may be slower to come in. He has said he is confident of a win in the election’s first round of voting.

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