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Senegal Election Observers Await Possible 2nd Vote

Observers from the European Union watch Senegalese electoral officials count ballots during presidential elections in the capital Dakar, February 26, 2012

After Sunday's presidential election, Senegal is likely headed to a second-round runoff between incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade and Macky Sall, his former prime minister. Observers said the vote transpired freely and fairly, despite the worries of the international community.

Mr. Wade's campaign said based on provisional results, the election is likely headed to a second round since no candidate received 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright.

At a press conference at the Presidential Palace on Monday evening, Mr. Wade sounded resigned to that scenario, saying the president said that, in the event of a second round, his party and its allies would explore every possibility to forge alliances and stay at the head of the competition.

Macky Sall, who was once considered as Mr. Wade's successor within his Senegalese Democratic Party, will come in second and will likely benefit from the support of the other 12 opposition candidates.

Predicting such a result after Sunday's vote, the various observation missions are planning to remain in Senegal and are hoping that the potential second round goes as smoothly as the first. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo headed the African Union delegation and released preliminary findings today.

"I want to underline the fact that the leadership and the people of this country must be commended and congratulated for the way they have conducted themselves for the elections that took place three days ago," said Obasanjo.

The European Union mission gave a similar message of congratulations to the Senegalese people, but was slightly more critical on the finer points of the government's conduct. Thjis Berman, head of the mission, had more to say on the events before the election than during. He was critical of the fact that pro-Wade demonstrations were authorized near the presidential palace in downtown Dakar, but opposition protests were banned in the area.

When opposition crowds did gather in the area ahead of the election, they were dispersed by tear gas and rubber bullets. At least six died in protests in other areas of Dakar and throughout Senegal. That caused concern among the international community for the reputation of the normally-peaceful country - concern that Mr. Wade was quick to dismiss.

Mr. Wade said together in performing this civic duty, the Senegalese have disproven in the best way possible all those who foresaw disaster and were so quick to rush to the bedside of what they saw as a dying Senegal.

The second round of the election is slated for March 18.