Senegal Observers See Presidential Run-Off

Posted February 28th, 2012 at 8:40 am (UTC-5)
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European Union observers say Senegal is heading toward a presidential run-off, as unofficial results suggest no candidate won a first-round majority.

Thijs Berman, chief of the EU election observer team in Senegal, said Tuesday that a second round is very likely, and that any other outcome seems statistically impossible.

President Abdoulaye Wade said Monday that with about half the votes counted, he is in front with 32 percent. He said another candidate – believed to be former prime minister Macky Sall – has 25 percent.

A candidate must win a majority to avoid a run-off vote.

Senegal's electoral commission has yet to release official results from Sunday's poll. Berman, speaking in Dakar, criticized what he termed a lack of transparency in the vote-counting process.

The commission is scheduled to finish compiling results Tuesday. When finished, the commission gives the results to Senegal's Constitutional Court, which has until Friday night to announce the results.

Mr. Wade's party had predicted a first-round victory for the incumbent, but the president acknowledged Monday that the election could be headed to a runoff.

“So everything is still possible, victory or second round.”

He said his party will look at the possibilities of aligning with other groups.

Earlier Monday, one of Mr. Wade's main rivals, Macky Sall, said that a second-round vote is “inevitable.”

Thirteen opposition candidates ran against the president, who angered many Senegalese by trying to extend his 12-year rule of the West African nation. Mr. Wade's decision to seek a third term triggered weeks of demonstrations ahead of the vote, some of which turned violent. At least six people were killed in the protests.

Opponents say his bid for a third term is unconstitutional, due to a reform he signed into law in 2001 that limits presidents to two terms.

The presidentially appointed Constitutional Court ruled last month the reform did not apply to Mr. Wade because it came into effect while he was already in office.