2012 Senegal Presidential Election Updates

Sengalese singer and opposition political activist Youssou N'Dour prepares to cast his vote on February 26, 2012 at a polling station in Dakar. Senegal voted Sunday in its most contentious election yet as 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade seeks a disputed third term, testing its credentials as one of Africa's most stable countries. AFP PHOTO/ ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, right, casts his vote in presidential elections, in his home Point E neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. After weeks of riots, Senegalese voters began casting their ballots Sunday in an election that threatens the country's image as one of the oldest and most robust democracies in Africa. This normally unflappable nation on the continent's western coast has been rocked by back-to-back protests following the decision of its 85-year-old leader to seek a third term. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Senegal braces for violence after presidential election

Senegal votes in tumultuous polls

Senegal votes in its most tumultuous polls yet on Sunday with 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third term having sparked deadly protests in one of Africa’s most stable countries

A Senegalese woman holds a placard as she takes part in an opposition demonstration against Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade's controversial bid for a third term, in Paris, on February 25, 2012. Senegal's opposition called for fresh elections without President Abdoulaye Wade within nine months, on the eve of polls in which the incumbent is seeking a highly disputed third term. Wade has already served two terms, but he argues that changes made to the constitution in 2008 extending term lengths to seven years allow him to serve two more mandates. AFP PHOTO / MEHDI FEDOUACH (Photo credit should read MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Political standoff on eve of Senegal election

Rival sides refuse African Union proposal, as nation awaits vote to decide incumbent’s quest for disputed third term

Africa’s top envoy has proposed Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade retire in two years if he is re-elected, seeking to ease tensions on the eve of the nation’s contentious polls.

The opposition countered the proposal on Saturday by saying that any negotiations must involve fresh elections without the 85-year-old Wade.

As the two sides bickered, the West African country anxiously awaited crucial polls in which the incumbent Wade is seeking a disputed third term.

Wade’s candidacy, which came after he circumvented term limits that he had previously introduced, led to weeks of protests that have left six people dead in a country long known as a haven of stability on the continent.

The African Union  (AU) president Thomas Boni Yayi on Saturday called for calm, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “concerned” by the violence and urged “peaceful and transparent” elections.

Nigeria’s ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo “introduced a new element, a road map which states Abdoulaye Wade will only stay in power for two years if he wins”, Abdoul Aziz Diop, a spokesperson for the opposition June 23 Movement (M23), said.

He said that while M23 was open to negotiations, its first priority was “that Abdoulaye Wade loses the election”.
Soon afterwards, M23 released a statement with several counter-proposals.

“The parties commit to organising a presidential election, in which Wade will not take part, within six to nine months,” read a statement.

M23 also called for a new, independent constitutional council and electoral commission and a review of the electoral code.

Obasanjo arrived in Dakar on Tuesday as head of a joint mission launched by the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and has met with Wade, the opposition and diplomats.

His visit followed days of riots over Wade’s candidacy that turned parts of Dakar into danger zones as police fired teargas at rock-throwing protesters who had set up flaming barricades.

With polls set to open, the rapper-led youth movement “Fed Up” urged voters against boycotting the election, encouraging them to get their voter cards and vote massively against the incumbent.

“The struggle must continue and will continue at the ballot box. We have been sharpening our weapons, your voters cards. The time has come to use them,” the movement said in a statement late Friday.

Contested candidacy

Wade has already served two terms in office, but argues that changes to the constitution in 2008 extending term lengths to seven years allow him to serve two more mandates.

The country’s top legal body validated his candidacy on January 27, sparking riots around the country and clashes in downtown Dakar.

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Observers say Wade needs to secure a first-round victory because he would fare badly in a second round when the field contracts to two candidates.

Thirteen opposition candidates are on the first round ballot, including three former prime ministers, but among them no clear front-runner has emerged.

Foreign partners have voiced concern over the unsettled campaign period – uncharacteristic for Senegal, which boasts an unbroken series of elections since independence in 1960 and has never suffered a coup.

The United States has sent its top Africa diplomat Johnnie Carson to Senegal to underline its “desire to see calm, free, fair elections”, the US state department said Friday.

Some worry that more than 450,000 unclaimed voter cards boost the prospect of fraud, but the elections body insists it is ready to manage the polls. Roughly 5.3mn people are registered to vote.

Paul Melly, an analyst with London-based think-tank Chatham House, told the AFP news agency that a Wade first-round win “could produce a further upsurge in protest and anger on the streets.”

Wade was first elected in 2000 to great euphoria after unseating the Socialist Party that had been in power for 40 years.

His supporters praise him for an infrastructure boom, but his detractors say he has focused on prestige projects while  average Senegalese people battle rising food prices and crippling power cuts.

Infuriating the opposition are signs that indicate Wade is lining up his son to succeed him.

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