Wade faces run-off vote after close election

Senegal's incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade faces a run-off vote to earn a controversial third term in office after failing to secure an outright majority in Sunday's ballot, the run-up to which was marked by a month of riots that left six dead.


AFP - Senegal’s veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade was dealt a humiliating blow Tuesday and forced into a run-off election after failing to secure an outright majority for a disputed third term.

The 85-year-old leader conceded he had not convinced voters outright in Sunday’s ballot to return him to office.

His candidacy had sparked a month of riots that left six dead and marred the west African nation’s credentials as a beacon of stability.

“The numbers are clear, we are headed to a second round,” said spokesman El Hadj Amadou Sall, a leader of Wade’s campaign.

He said results from 30 of the country’s 45 departments showed Wade in the lead with about 36 percent, and while they could still reach 40 percent, a second round was unavoidable.

Slideshow - Behind the scenes: covering Senegal's elections

Wade, who had promised a crushing first round victory, held out hope until the last as he addressed the nation Monday night, saying “everything is possible, victory or a second round of voting.”

The national elections commission has yet to announce its final official result but Western observers also said a second round was inevitable.

“There will very likely be a second round. Any other outcome seems statistically impossible after what we know and hear,” European Union observer mission chief Thijs Berman told journalists.

The United States’ top Africa diplomat Johnnie Carson said “early results indicate that a second round of voting is highly likely”.

“We call upon all political party leaders and their supporters to follow the rule of law and respect the results,” Carson added.

The African Union observer team urged political leaders and their supporters to “accept the outcome of the elections”.

The opposition savoured its strong showing after weeks of violent protests in a bid to pressure Wade to retire.

“Wade, its over,” headlined L’Observateur opposition newspaper, calling the incumbent’s address to the nation on Monday night his “swansong”.

The leader is seeking a new seven-year term which would put him in office into his 90s 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, sparking a wave of riots that sparked international concern.

Results show a tight race between Wade and his former protege, ex-prime minister Macky Sall, 50, who termed them a “massive rejection of the outgoing president.”

The mayor of the western city of Fatick fell out of favour in 2008 with Wade, his former mentor, under whom he had held several ministerial portfolios and also served as prime minister.

In his television address, Wade said he would rise to the challenge of a second round, evoking the possibility of alliances to assure a final victory.

The vote passed off without any major incident and all sides are being urged to ensure the situation remains peaceful.

United Nations special representative in west Africa Said Djinnit urged the population to “show restraint until the end of the electoral process.”

Wade, who is Africa’s oldest leader after Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, 88, was first elected in 2000 on a wave of euphoria and his supporters praise him for overseeing a development boom.

However he was roundly booed as he cast his ballot and was trounced in his home polling station a sign of how his popularity has plunged amid efforts to cling to power and line up his unpopular son Karim to succeed him.

He is also accused of focusing on prestige projects and being out of touch with the needs of the people, battling high unemployment and crippling power cuts.

Both France and the United States urged him to retire as protests swept the nation, with angry youths clashing with police on a near-daily basis in the seaside capital Dakar.

However Wade dismissed the opposition against him as “temper tantrums” and heaped scorn on his former allies, saying he refused to be dictated to.

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.


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