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Opposing Approaches Will Determine Senegal's Second-Round Vote

Nick Loomis

After failing to win outright in the first round of Senegal's election, President Abdoulaye Wade faces Macky Sall in Sunday's second-round vote. The two candidates have spent the intervening month campaigning, with very different strategies.

Since winning the right to face the incumbent in the second round, Macky Sall has held large rallies throughout the country in a populist appeal for votes.

"Young people, carpenters, mechanics, merchants and brokers, you deserve a response to your request for jobs. All that remains is victory, which we will achieve," said Sall.

Wade seeks religious vote

President Wade has held smaller rallies in many of the same places. But he has preferred to hold court with influential leaders - especially in the religious community.

"If we work well, together with your prayers, the second round will go well, I will win, and it will be better than if I had won in the first round," said Wade.

At one such meeting in Kaolack, hundreds lined up to meet with the president, some say in order to get something in return for their support.

"Did you see the bag full of money before? It's because he's losing, and when we're losing, we hide behind the religious leaders who give the word to their disciples to vote a certain way," said Kaolack resident Cheikh Kane.

Whatever his methods, the president has won the support of some of the country's Muslim spiritual leaders. Cheikh Béthio Thioune ordered his disciples to vote for the president and held the largest march Dakar has seen throughout the election period.

"You see that everyone has come out for the march to re-elect the president of the republic, Abdoulaye Wade. I believe that he has already been re-elected by us, the disciples of Cheikh Béthio Thioune," said Abdou Ndiaye, a Thioune disciple.

Sall gathers political forces

Macky Sall has not ignored the religious community, but the strength of his coalition is political. The 12 other first-round opposition candidates unanimously support him, and the thinking is that their constituencies also will follow.

"In the first round, I voted for Tanor Dieng of the Socialist Party. But in the second round, I'm with Tanor and everyone else who has moved to Macky because we are tired. The entire country has had enough," said Cheikh Ka, a Macky Sall convert.

Even the protest movement Y'en A Marre - meaning "we've had enough" - has broken its year-long refusal to endorse a candidate and has urged people to vote for Sall. But Sall is a former prime minister under Wade, and like many Senegalese, founding member Omar Touré feels this does not represent much of a change.

"We are not supporting the Macky the person, we are supporting the will of the people, which is to oust Wade," said Touré.

Sall enjoys more enthusiastic support from Grammy winner and would-be presidential candidate Youssou N'Dour, as well as the M23 opposition movement, which has ceased the protests against Wade's candidacy it carried out before the first round.

The movement still objects to the president's effort to seek a third term - despite a constitutional limit of two. Most of the protesters now, though, prefer to remove him by the ballot. Wade has no intention of being removed, however, and analysts are expecting a close race.

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