News

Senegal Votes in Presidential Runoff Sunday

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade speaks to journalists at a news conference in Dakar (file photo).
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade speaks to journalists at a news conference in Dakar (file photo).
Anne Look

Senegal votes Sunday in a tightly-contested runoff election that pits opposition leader Macky Sall against his former political mentor, incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade.

President Abdoulaye Wade waved and touched hands with singing supporters from the moonroof of a black SUV Wednesday as he made campaign stops on the outskirts of Dakar.

The long caravan of SUVs was a throwback to the "blue marches" of Wade's glory days in the opposition, blue being the signature color of his party.  Hundreds, some say thousands, of supporters would walk through the streets alongside Mr. Wade's car.

On Wednesday, young people and school children ran to keep up with the cavalcade as it rolled through the main drag of Mbour, 80 kilometers south of the capital.

Wade's critics say he has fallen out of touch with the population, focusing too much on large projects and not enough on the daily difficulties of ordinary Senegalese.

As the caravan passes, Abdoulaye Assane Bathily says he is a fervent ruling party militant and predicts Wade will win a resounding victory.  He says Wade promised to build infrastructure to draw investment and he did it.  He says Senegal is now an emerging nation.  He says he prays that Wade will have the strength to continue.

A young street vendor interrupts Bathily.

He says, "I have a university degree but do you see what I am doing?"  He pulls herbal ginseng supplements from his backpack that he is selling.  He says the president promised us young people jobs if he came to power but do you see what I am forced to do?  He says Wade cannot be re-elected.

Wade came to power on a tide of popular support in 2000 and won re-election in 2007 in the first round.  He now says he wants to serve three years of a controversial third mandate to finish his projects, including a new airport outside Dakar.

The opposition says he is violating a constitutional two-term limit.  Critics say the president wants to pass on power to his son and government minister, Karim, something Wade denies.

Street protests against Wade's candidacy before the first round of voting February 25 killed at least six people.  The violence shook the population of what has been one of West Africa's most celebrated and peaceful democracies.

Speaking in the ruling party stronghold of Mbao Wednesday Wade thanks those who voted for him in the first round.  He says fears of violence kept many from voting.  He says the French and the Americans said Senegal would explode, but it did not.  He says the second round will be calm and he expects supporters to vote en masse to raise his majority to 75 percent.

Wade led the first round with 35 percent of votes.  Macky Sall won just under 27 percent.

The rest of the ballots - nearly 40 percent - went to a dozen other opposition candidates who have thrown their support behind Sall.

However, victory is not a mathematical certainty.  Nearly half of Senegal's 5.3 million registered voters did not go to the polls in the first round.

Sall has set himself up as the anti-Wade, promising to decentralize the government and reduce the cost of daily necessities, like oil, rice and sugar.  At 85 years of age,  Wade is Africa's second oldest leader.  Sall is three decades his junior.

Sall served in Wade's government as mining minister, prime minister and president of the National Assembly.  He ran Wade's campaign in 2007.  Sall only left the ruling party in late 2008.

Awa Laye Fall says she will vote for Sall - not because he is better, she says, but because he is all they have.  She says they want Wade out, but she doesn't trust Macky Sall.  She says she doesn't think he is that different.  She says all they can do is try to control him so that he does not follow in Wade's footsteps.

Sall has sought to shake off the moniker of Wade's apprentice.

Addressing a rally outside Dakar Tuesday, Sall says he is a free man.  He says he is not beholden to any lobby on the national or international level.  He says he does not owe anything to anyone and has gotten where is through his own efforts.  He says Wade should not be a sore loser.  He says Wade's government should pack its bags and prepare to be swept out by the Senegalese people.

Sall has run an energetic, populist campaign, while Wade has prioritized one-on-one visits in regional centers aimed at drawing in opposition heavyweights at the local level.  He has also secured the backing of influential leaders in the country's Muslim Mouride brotherhood.

It promises to be a tight race, and the two allies-turned-opponents appear ready to fight to the finish. Senegalese continue to express concern that disputes over the results could rekindle violence.


This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs