February 29, 2012 / 9:40 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Wade leads Senegal vote, run-off needed

(Adds details, Sall quote)

DAKAR, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade won 34.8 percent of the vote in the presidential election, falling short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a run-off, according to the first official results released on Wednesday.

The result, which must be confirmed by Senegal’s top legal body, means he will face former ally Macky Sall, who came second with 26.6 percent of the vote, in the run-off. The vote is due three weeks after the results are finalised.

Usually placid Senegal saw weeks of violence in the run-up to the election as Wade’s rivals said his bid for re-election was illegal as he would have already served two terms in charge of the West African state.

Wade argued that limits were introduced after he had already started his term.

Polling was calm and well-organised, and turn-out from a total 5.3 million eligible voters was 51.6 percent.

Attention has swiftly turned to the jockeying for support from the other 12 candidates, with Moustapha Niasse, like Sall another ex-premier under Wade, emerging as the leading potential kingmaker.

According to official results, he came third with 13.2 percent. Niasse has already ruled out supporting Wade but so far stopped short of endorsing Sall.

In his first news conference since Sunday’s vote, Sall said earlier on Wednesday he was confident he could defeat Wade.

“I’m sure the desire for change of the Senegalese people will give me the victory in the second round,” he said.

Touching on some of the sensitive topics of national debate which have underpinned a groundswell of opposition to Wade’s rule, Sall promised that if he was elected he would reduce the prices of basic foodstuffs and negotiate with striking teachers to solve a crisis in the education sector.

He also promised constitutional reform to reduce the presidential term to five years and to enforce a limit of two terms. “I will apply that reform to myself,” he said, in a pointed jab at Wade’s bid for a third term.

Sall said he would seek to unite all of the opposition in a powerful alliance aimed at defeating Wade in the run-off, and had started making the contacts to forge this unified coalition. (Reporting by Diadie Ba and Pascal Fletcher; Writing by David Lewis)

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