Senegal set for second vote after President fails to win majority

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The Independent Online

Senegal is set for a run-off vote after its aged president failed to win a majority in a contentious election that has threatened to destabilise the West African nation. Former prime minister Macky Sall came a close second to the 85 year old Abdoulaye Wade, according to provisional results, and electors will now have to choose between them in a second round expected in mid-March.

A geologist who held several ministerial posts during Mr Wade's 12 years in power, Mr Sall fell out with the president after criticising the growing influence in government of his son, Karim Wade.

The challenger claimed yesterday that he already had the important endorsement of Senegal's music star Youssou N'Dour who has accused Mr Wade of being a "dictator" and was barred from running for the presidency himself. Mr Wade confirmed that he accepts the outcome of the first round and that he will contest the run-off.

Mr Sall glossed over his previous closeness to the president by boasting he was a "student who had surpassed his master".

The failure to land a first-round win will now see the president facing a more united opposition amid signs of widespread anger at his flouting of constitutional terms limiting his bid to stay in power. Mr Wade was visibly shocked on polling day when he was jeered by his own neighbours as he went to vote.

The build-up to Sunday's elections was marked by daily protests that shattered the usual calm in the seaside capital, Dakar, and elsewhere. Demonstrators were demanding that the "old man" respect the term limits that he put in place after taking power in 2000 that were meant to forbid a third term. The death toll of seven people is unremarkable by the standards of other West African political crises but was considered serious enough for the African Union and the regional bloc Ecowas to send a high-level delegation.

While most opposition leaders in Senegal focused on demands for Mr Wade to step aside, Mr Sall focused on trying to beat the octogenarian at the polls. He can expect the backing of the influential hip hop movement Y'en a Marre, who have been the main instigators of the anti-Wade street protests.