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Senegal Election Commission Warns Against Early Calls

A Senegalese woman picks up voting cards before casting her ballot at a polling station in Dakar, Senegal, Sunday Feb. 24, 2019.
A Senegalese woman picks up voting cards before casting her ballot at a polling station in Dakar, Senegal, Sunday Feb. 24, 2019.

Senegal’s electoral commission on Monday urged presidential candidates and their supporters to avoid making premature declarations about the outcome of Sunday’s vote.

The call came after Senegal’s prime minister claimed that the party’s unofficial results showed incumbent president Macky Sall had won re-election. That declaration was rejected however by two opposition candidates who asserted the vote would go to a runoff.

Senegal’s electoral commission said that the Feb. 24 elections went generally well nationwide and abroad, adding that vote counting continued Monday and results are being collected by “authorized structures.”

“It is the Constitutional Council that will carry out the final proclamation of the results,” it said, once all votes are tallied and properly transmitted.

The commission “calls on the candidates and their supporters, as well as the actors of the civil society and the population, to abstain from making any premature declaration on the results,” it said in a statement. “It calls on the usual the political actors to adopt the same exemplary behavior as that observed by the citizens, who put forward their civic spirit” on Sunday.

Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, who is from the president’s ruling party, told reporters late Sunday that his unofficial results show that Sall had won 57 percent of the vote according to results compiled by their team. The winning candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round.

“Tomorrow, the people will have the results in all departments. We will see that President Sall was re-elected in the first round,” said Dionne, adding that his party’s unofficial results show that Sall won in 13 of Senegal’s 14 regions.

However, top opposition candidate Idrissa Seck told reporters that he and his supporters do not accept the unofficial reports of a Sall victory.

“We congratulate the people who have mainly expressed their choice in favor of the opposition,” said Seck. He blamed media outlets for wrongly citing results given by Sall’s party as official.

“We will not accept these results, we call on all Senegalese people to remain vigilant and carefully prepare for the second round,” said Seck.

Opposition candidate Ousmane Sonko, who is popular with the youth, also spoke at the press conference with Seck and agreed that preliminary results indicate a second round should be held.

“I call on the religious leaders to call the ruling party to their senses,” said Sonko.

The official results announced by Senegal’s electoral commission are not expected until at least Tuesday.

If no candidate wins a clear majority of more than 50 percent, the country will go to a second round of voting next month.

Sall faced four challengers in Sunday’s vote including Seck, who has run for the office twice before.

The 57-year-old incumbent sought re-election on his record of building roads and creating jobs, while opposition supporters maintained those efforts had not reached many in this West African country where young men often risk their lives to migrate to Europe.

Senegal’s civil society observation mission, which deployed more than 3,000 observers, said Monday it welcomed “the maturity of the Senegalese people but deplored the statements and irresponsible behavior of some actors.”

The missions called out opposition members for targeting national and international media, and the statement by the prime minister suggesting a victory for Sall, which it said encroached on authorities who are officially meant to proclaim results.

The missions called on all actors to show restraint in order to preserve the peace that has marked Senegal’s vote.

This year’s vote also has been marked by allegations that the presidency had effectively blocked two prominent opposition politicians from taking part: Dakar’s former mayor and the son of the president who Sall ousted from office in 2012.

That year he had campaigned on a message of change to beat longtime former President Abdoulaye Wade. A constitutional referendum since then has shortened the presidential term from seven years to five. Sall weathered some criticism after he finished out his seven-year mandate following that law change.

Senegal has long been a democratic example in West Africa where coups and clinging to power used to be all too common in neighboring countries. European Union election observers reported no major irregularities by mid-day Sunday.