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Wade under pressure as Senegal holds run-off vote

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2012-03-25

Senegal’s incumbent president, 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, faces a tough fight to win a controversial third term in office on Sunday when the country votes in a crucial run off election. There are fears the vote will be marred by violence.

Senegal goes to the polls on Sunday for the eagerly awaited run-off election to determine the country’s next president.

In the first round on February 26 incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade failed to deal a knock-out blow to rival opposition candidate Macky Sall after gaining only 34.8 percent of the vote compared to Sall’s 24.5 percent.

The run up to that vote was marred by deadly riots following 85-year-old Wade’s announcement that he would bid for a third term as president therefore dodging a constitutional limit of two terms.

Tensions running high

At least nine people died in riots across a country which had up to then been known as one of the most stable in the region.

Over recent weeks both candidates have been campaigning hard in a desperate bid to win over voters, but it is Macky Sall’s stock which appears to have risen since the first round.

Sall, a former prime minister, has benefited from the support of the 12 other candidates who since being eliminated in the first round have rallied behind Wade’s rival.
Sall has also won the backing of singer Youssou N'Dour who was barred from presenting himself as a candidate in the election by the constitutional council.

“If you look at Wade’s campaign you can see that it has burned out,” Mamadou Diouf, from the United States’ University of Colombia told FRANCE 24.

“He is not in a favourable situation and he is continuing to lose the electorate to the point where he has nothing else to offer but threats. In doing so he is taking Senegalese voters for idiots,” the director of the African Studies Institute added.

With tension high ahead of the vote there are concerns the violence that blighted the run-up to the first round could also mar Sunday’s vote.

Concerns of a return to violence

Elections chief Doudou Ndir told journalists this week not to play down recent violent clashes between rival supporters and urged the candidates “to avoid making any premature declaration over the results”.

Apart from those clashes Senegal has enjoyed a period of relative calm in recent weeks and Diouf is confident it can continue.

“Since the first round the Senegalese have shown their capacity to maintain calm whilst under scrutiny,” he said.

In total, 300 foreign observers will monitor the vote and Sall has urged his supporters to be vigilant fearing that Wade will try to manipulate a victory.

“The defeat of President Wade is inevitable,” he said at his final rally outside the capital on Friday. “We will not accept that he steals the votes of Senegal’s citizens.”

Wade, who was first elected in 2000, however remained defiant telling a local television station: “There is only one outcome. I win. The possibility of my defeat is absurd.”

Much may depend on the number of voters who turn up to cast their ballot at the 12,000 polling stations across the country.

FRANCE 24’s Nicolas Germain reporting from the country’s capital Dakar said: “A big question here is will voter turn out be higher than the first round when only one in two Senegalese went to the polling stations.”

Date created : 2012-03-24

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