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Senegal Celebrates Transparent Vote and Peaceful Power Transition

Election workers tally votes on a blackboard during vote counting at a polling station in the Medina neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal Sunday, March 25, 2012.

Despite accusations of vote buying from both sides, elections were peaceful and incumbent admitted defeat

Celebrations rang throughout the streets of Senegal Sunday night just hours after polls closed as incumbent candidate President Abdoulaye Wade called to admit defeat and congratulate challenger Macky Sall on Salls’ victory at the polls.

At Sall’s headquarters, supporters sang and danced after it was clear Sall would become the country’s fourth president.

Elections had been tense in the West African country before first round voting in February, when Wade ran for a controversial third term despite the constitution’s two-term limit.

Wade won 35 percent of the vote in the first round, but the opposition rallied together around Sall and shortly after polls closed at 6 pm local time Sunday, vote counting began and Sall had taken a wide lead.

Weeks before voting got underway, opposition coalitions such as Y’en a Marre, a group of rappers who organized anti-Wade protests, expressed concerns that Wade’s party was trying to buy electoral cards. They mobilized a campaign urging people not to sell their vote, and Y’en a Marre member Djily Baghdad said he thinks they were successful and that votes were not purchased in the end.

“It’s the citizen’s duty for them to go and vote and not to sell their card. If you sell your card, it’s like your selling your dignity, it’s like you’re selling your voice. And those are priceless you cannot sell them. People received the message and were very receptive of the message,” said Baghdad.

Senegalese political analyst Aly Ndiaye added that Wade’s supporters did not buy votes.

“That’s false accusation. They’re playing by the game,” said Ndiaye.

Wade’s campaign spokesperson issued a release strongly denying the allegations. They said the opposition coalition was guilty of their own questionable tactics and claimed that Youssou N’dour, Senegal’s most famous musician and an opposition leader, was promising free concert tickets to voters who cast their ballot for Sall.