Senegal's Wade in tight race for new term

Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:17am GMT

By Pascal Fletcher

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade is in a tight race with chief rival Macky Sall, according to early unofficial tallies from the West African state's most contentious poll in recent history, signaling a possible run-off between the former allies.

The election follows weeks of violent street protests against the 85-year-old Wade's bid for a third term in office despite a two-term limit, and warnings that Senegal's reputation as an established democracy hangs in the balance.

"We think the second round could be between Macky Sall and President Wade," said Jean Paul Diaz, a political ally of Macky Sall, adding the campaign's internal count showed the race was within a few percentage points.

Partial unofficial results published by website SUNU2012, which has been aggregating figures from volunteers at individual polling stations, showed Wade with about 24 percent, ahead of Sall's 21 percent, with 10 percent of the ballots counted.

"We are showing all the world that we are changing this country without a civil war," said Arona Ndofene Diouf, political counselor in Sall's campaign, who was among a small gathering celebrating at Sall's headquarters.

The trend could change rapidly, however, as Wade claims strong support in rural areas of the country where figures may be slower to come in. He has said he is confident of a win in the election's first round of voting.

Amadou Sall, a spokesman for Wade, told Reuters that there were not enough votes in yet to draw any conclusions.

A candidate must win an outright majority to win in the first round, otherwise a run-off between the top two candidates will be set. No official results have yet been released by Senegal's election commission.   Continued...

A Senegalese man votes during Senegal's presidential election in the capital Dakar, February 26, 2012. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.