Votes were being counted in Senegal on Sunday after polls closed in the country’s contentious presidential elections. Analysts fear a first round win for President Abdoulaye Wade will trigger further violence after weeks of deadly riots
AFP - Senegal began tallying results in a contentious election Sunday in which incumbent Abdoulaye Wade was greeted by jeers as he cast his ballot, seeking to extend his rule with a disputed third term.
Initial results trickled in from individual polling stations in an election cloaked in suspense, with none of the 13 opposition candidates emerging a strong frontrunner before the poll.
The 85-year-old Wade has said he is certain of a first-round win, which analysts say could spark more violence after a month of deadly riots prompted by his candidacy, which the opposition says breaks the rules.
The west African nation's reputation as a haven of stability has been tarnished by the pre-poll violence and the international community is closely scrutinising the election.
The US State Department's Africa point man Johnnie Carson said the polls had been "orderly, peaceful and well managed", and that it was critical for the country that they went well.
Meanwhile Grammy-winning singer Youssou Ndour warned that the country would not accept an "electoral coup" by Wade.
The incumbent lost his temper after voting as he was greeted by a cacophony of boos, pushing one of his bodyguards out of the way as he beat a hasty retreat without speaking to the media.
A defiant Wade, who says he needs more time in office to finish his "grand projects" circumvented a two-term limit he himself worked into the constitution to run in the election.
"My majority is so overwhelming that I think I will be elected with a strong percentage in the first round," Wade said in an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche published Sunday.
He heaped derision on earlier calls from France and the United States that he retire, saying his former allies had criticised him because "I am not docile ... I am not a Negro service boy".
Despite the violence, long lines of voters waited patiently to cast their ballots, which European Union observer chief Thijs Berman described as heartening.
"I spoke to many Senegalese who are worried about the process, more worried than usual in Senegal," he said.
The African Union's envoy, former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, said he was pleased with the voting process by midday, saying he believed "we may have a peaceful and honest election."
Wade's election 12 years ago after leading the opposition for 25 years was met with euphoria, but his efforts to cling to power and line up his unpopular son Karim to succeed him have dented his popularity.
Growing frustration over high unemployment, rising food prices and crippling power cuts also have Senegalese hankering for a change.
Among the main contenders in the opposition field are three former prime ministers, Macky Sall, Idrissa Seck and Moustapha Niasse, and Socialist Party leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng.
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 serious man. Wade is too old, he has done a good job but now he must leave," he said.
Amadou Ndiaye, 62, said he hoped for a change from Idrissa Seck, Wade's former protege and prime minister before a bitter falling-out.
"The president will try to steal the election, but still, one must vote. The old man must leave."
Wade argues that 2008 constitutional changes extending term lengths from five to seven years allow him to serve two more mandates.
A win would mean Wade would leave office aged 92 in a nation where the median age is 18. He is currently Africa's second oldest leader after Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe, 88.
Wade's supporters praise him for overseeing a development boom, but he is accused of focusing on prestige projects and being out of touch with the needs of the people.
"Wade will be elected in the first round, I am sure and I wish for it," said a man in his 50s dressed in flowing blue robes.
The former French colony of some 13 million people is one of the continent's pioneer democracies, boasting an unbroken series of elections since independence in 1960. Unlike many of its troubled neighbours it has never suffered a coup.
Date created : 2012-02-26