Senegal′s presidential election is heading to a runoff | News | DW | 01.03.2012
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Senegal's presidential election is heading to a runoff

Presidential election results published in Senegal show that the country will return to the polls for a second round of voting. Incumbent Abdoulaye Wade secured the most votes but fell short of an outright majority.

Senegal's first official results from Sunday's presidential election show that incumbent Abdoulaye Wade will face a second round runoff vote against his former protege and prime minister, Macky Sall.

Wade lead the race with 34.8 percent of the vote, with Sall trailing on 26.6 percent. Despite Wade's advantage in the first round, he was facing a disjointed opposition with 13 challengers to his position. In the runoff, voters will have to choose between Wade and Sall only.

"I'm sure the desire for change of the Sengalese people will give me victory in the second round," Macky Sall said on Wednesday. "Two out of every three Senegalese chose to open a new page in our history… Senegal is at a crossroad."

Two other erstwhile members of Wade's inner circle came in third and fourth in the vote. Moustapha Niasse and Idrissa Seck, like Sall, are former Sengalese prime ministers who have defected from Wade's camp. Niasse has already ruled out supporting Wade in a runoff, but has not endorsed Sall either.

Sall has pledged to try to unite the various opposition factions in Senegal in time for the runoff vote, which is expected to be held on March 18.

The provisional results, which were read out by the head of Senegal's appeals court, Demba Kandji, put voter turnout at 51.6 percent. Senegal has 5.3 million eligible voters.

The election campaign has so far been dominated by Wade's decision to run for a third term as president. Senegal's head of state is constitutionally bound to a limit of two terms in office, but Wade - who introduced this legislation - says his first term falls under the auspices of the previous constitution. Senegal's top court upheld the 85-year-old's decision to run for reelection, sparking sporadic unrest and protests on the streets in the run-up to the poll. One of Sall's policy proposals is to introduce shorter term limits for Senegalese presidents, he joked on the campaign trail that "I will apply that reform to myself."

msh/av (AP, dpa, Reuters)