Senegal Headed for Runoff Election

Posted March 1st, 2012 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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Senegal is headed for a runoff presidential election between incumbent Abdoulaye Wade and former ally Macky Sall, after initial results of Sunday's first-round poll showed neither candidate won a majority of the votes.

Provisional results released late Wednesday showed President Wade with about 35 percent of the vote and Sall with about 26 percent. Following the announcement, an optimistic Sall rallied opposition supporters to back him in the runoff vote, tentatively scheduled for later this month.

“I invite everyone to join together for the next round of the presidential elections, probably on the 18th of March, on the 18th or 25th, to pursue a common fight against the unconstitutional candidacy (of President Wade) that is in front of us, a fight which must be won in memory of the victims (killed in protests) that we have recorded recently.”

Sall said if elected, he would revise the constitution to reduce the length of the presidential term from seven to five years. He also said he would comply with Senegal's two-term presidential limit, in a statement clearly aimed at Mr. Wade's controversial bid for a third term.

But a senior member of Senegal's ruling party warned opposition groups not to dismiss incumbent President Wade's chances for re-election. Mamadou Mountaga Gueye of the Senegalese Democratic Party told VOA that Sall, Mr. Wade's former prime minister, does not have enough experience to run the country.

“Macky Sall was a student of Abdoulaye Wade, and we don't want to give the country to a student. We have to give it to the person who has experience, who led Senegal from 2000 to the emerging country it is today.”

On Wednesday, Senegalese opposition groups held talks aimed at forming a coalition to defeat Mr. Wade. Analysts have said that such an alliance could end the 85-year-old's controversial attempt at a third term.

Several of the 14 first-round candidates have already pledged to support Sall, though it is unclear how many of their supporters will do the same. Some observers predict that many opposition leaders will be reluctant to support Sall out of fear they will not receive positions in the new government should President Wade be re-elected.

Opposition leaders have complained that President Wade's bid for a third term is unconstitutional, citing a reform he signed into law in 2001 that limits presidents to two terms. The presidentially-appointed Constitutional Court ruled last month that reform does not apply retroactively to Mr. Wade's first term.

The decision sparked riots, with protesters clashing with police. The pre-electoral violence killed at least six people, although demonstrations eased in the days leading up to the vote.