February 7, 2012 / 10:04 PM / 7 years ago

Senegal's Wade says "no doubt" of re-election

* Wade seeking third term as president

* Opposition say bid breaks election rules

* At least four have been killed in demonstrations

By Diadie Ba

DAKAR, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said on Tuesday he expects to win a new term as leader of the West African state in the first-round of upcoming elections, dismissing opposition demands he renounce his candidacy.

The octogenarian leader has come under pressure at home and abroad to step down amid complaints from his rivals that his effort to take a third term is unconstitutional. At least four people have been killed in protests in the normally tranquil nation since last month.

“I am very satisfied to see that I am still very popular,” Wade told reporters after a driving tour of the capital Dakar that drew thousands into the streets. “I have never had any doubt about my re-election in the first round.”

Wade’s rivals say his bid for a third term in the Feb. 26 polls breaches rules setting a two-term limit. The president argues that his first term should not be counted as the limit was added to the constitution in 2001, a year after he had begun his time in power.

Wade will face more than a dozen rivals in the election, including former allies Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck. A run-off will be held if no candidate wins more than half the total vote.

“You have seen that there was not even a pocket of hostility,” Wade told reporters who had joined him on the tour. A Reuters witness said thousands of people cheered Wade, who stopped occasionally to shake hands.

An opposition demonstration earlier in the day also drew thousands of people, who marched from a main university to the Medina district near the centre of town before they were stopped by police. The crowd was dispersed peacefully.

Wade’s candidacy in the polls was approved last month by the country’s top legal body. The decision sparked riots and drew criticism from foreign donors, especially the United States, which said the bid posed a risk to Senegal’s stability.

Senegal’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned U.S. Ambassador Lewis Lukens to attend a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the U.S. comments. An official at the U.S. embassy confirmed the meeting, but did not give details of the discussion and said it was “part of normal diplomacy”.

Wade’s rivals, who include music star Youssou N’Dour, have so far struggled to forge a unified front against him. Wade, who led street protests before coming to power in 2000, has mocked the opposition for failing to mobilise a serious challenge and dismissed foreign criticism. (Writing and additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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