Sall Defeats Senegalese President in Runoff Vote

Posted March 26th, 2012 at 2:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Opposition candidate Macky Sall says a new era can begin in Senegal after his victory in Sunday's runoff presidential election.

Unofficial results showed voters backed Mr. Sall over President Abdoulaye Wade, who was running for a controversial third term.

Mr. Sall told reporters early Monday the election is a victory for all of Senegal.

“I also salute those who chose the other candidate. I will be the president of all Senegalese people.”

His supporters rallied in the capital, Dakar, to celebrate his victory.

Mr. Wade said in a statement on Monday he called Mr. Sall to congratulate him. He also thanked his own supporters and urged them to look toward upcoming parliamentary elections.

The president's prompt concession eased concerns the 85-year-old leader was attempting to cling to power by seeking a third mandate, even though the constitution limits a president to two terms.

The outcome reinforces Senegal's international reputation as a peaceful democracy in Africa, where some countries are known for military coups, election-related violence and so-called “presidents for life.”

The events quickly drew international praise, even though the officials provisional results will not be announced for days.

U.S. state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland praised what she described as Mr. Wade's “graceful concession.” She noted the United States will not take an official position on the election outcome until the final vote tallies are released.

The special representative to the U.N. Secretary General in West Africa, Said Djinit, told VOA the poll gives the world a “good reason to hope democracy is making progress in Africa.”

International election observers also lauded the vote. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the African Union's monitors, told VOA the election was transparent and peaceful.

“The election this time because we had less number of contestants to deal with was smoother, was more orderly.”

Mr. Sall was one of 13 opposition candidates in the first round of the election, which Mr. Wade won with 35 percent of the vote. The losing candidates turned their support to Mr. Sall, who promised to reform the government and lower basic food costs.

Toga Gayewea McIntosh, vice president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), told VOA the bloc will announce the findings of its monitoring mission later Monday, but said the vote seems to have been peaceful.

“I think we got a slightly higher turnout than there was in the first round. All indications are pointing to that direction. Secondly, it was orderly done.”

On the streets of Dakar on Monday, fears of unrest appeared to have dissolved as people resumed their normal activities.

Mr. Wade's bid for a third term sparked riots that killed six people in recent months. President Wade said he could run for a third term because constitutional term limits took effect after he was first elected.