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French Election Attracts Interest in Senegal


Interest is high in Senegal for the French presidential election, where one the two candidates, Segolene Royal, was born. Selah Hennessy reports from Dakar that controversial immigration policies by her opponent Nicolas Sarkozy have also stirred a debate.

Voting also took place in Dakar, where there are thousands of French citizens and dual nationals. About 10,000 people were registered to vote in the French election.

With a distinct choice of candidates in the final round of the French election, the conservative Sarkozy and the socialist Royal, the election has been a hotly debated issue in the former French colony.

Senegalese-born Royal was the top vote getter in Senegal in the first round, with more than 40 percent of the votes. Most voters returning to the polling station on Sunday say they will vote for her again.

An important issue for many voters is immigration. Sarkozy, who has put national identity at the center of his campaign, has called for tighter rules on immigration.

A lawyer, Samir Ftouhi, says Mr. Sarkozy will not be good for a multi-cultural France.

"He is not good for a social, political and a multi-confessional France,'' said Ftouhi,

One woman waiting to vote says she thinks it will be good for France to have a female president.

"I think that it will be really great to have women running all countries," she said. "They will not fight like those men."

But she thinks that Senegalese men would not vote for a female president here.

"I think that if it was in Senegal, men would not vote for a woman," she said. "In this case they are just thinking who is good for Africa and who is not."

Georges Ghora, who has been living in Dakar for 12 years, was one of the few voters who said he supported the conservative candidate. He says France needs a strong president like Sarkozy who can keep France united.

"I believe that according to the situation, the actual situation in France, we would rather go for a president who is strong, who can hold tightly the French community and the republic," said Ghora.

Both candidates have said they may make radical changes to the policies of France in Africa. Currently, French troops are being used as rapid reaction forces in several conflicts on the continent, in divided Ivory Coast, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

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