Senegal votes in new president

Sunday 25 March 2012

Senegal votes in new president

Macky Sall wins as incumbent Abdoulaye Wade conceded after preliminary results showed a landslide for opposition

Associated Press in Dakar

President Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat to his former protege Macky Sall after preliminary results showed the opposition candidate had trounced the 85-year-old incumbent. The move alleviated fears that Wade, in power for 12 years, would try to stay in office or would challenge the runoff results.

Wade, who first took office in 2000, has seen his popularity suffer amid soaring living costs and unemployment.

His decision to seek re-election had infuriated many voters. Violent protests left at least six people dead, and analysts had warned of further unrest if Wade won.

Marieme Ousmane Wele, 55, said she had voted for Sall because the rising prices of basic goods have made her life increasingly difficult.

“I sell cereal made from corn but the price of corn has really gone up. Now, I don’t have many customers and it’s becoming difficult to feed my own family,” she said.

On the streets of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, images of Wade on campaign posters had their eyes scratched out. And his convoy was hit by rocks in the final days of the runoff campaign.

Sall, 50, is a geologist by training who worked for years under Wade. The two, however, had a subsequent falling out and Wade has been describing Sall as an apprentice who has not yet taken in “the lessons of his mentor.”

Wade’s image began to suffer after he started giving an increasing share of power to his son Karim, who was derisively called “the minister of the sky and the earth” after he was handed control of multiple ministries including infrastructure and energy.

The president also tried to rush a law through parliament that would have reduced the percentage a candidate needed to win on the first round from 50 to around 25%. He was forced to scrap the proposal after riots immobilized the capital.

Dr Johny Assane said he voted for Wade in 2000 but has since become disillusioned. While he says he is financially secure, he has seen how others have failed to benefit from Wade’s leadership.

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