Senegalese vote in contentious presidential election


People queue to cast their votes on February 26, 2012 at a polling station in Dakar during Senegal's most contentious election yet as President Abdoulaye Wade seeks a disputed third term.



Polls have closed in today's presidential elections in Senegal, according to The Associated Press, which said voting was generally orderly with one notable exception.

The elections were preceded by weeks of violent protest in which six people died, the BBC reported. According to the AP, there was violence in Cassamance province, which has long been home to a slow-burning rebellion. The news agency said rebels attacked two vehicles carrying voting materials and attempted to intimidate voters.

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Incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade is seeking a third term after Senegal's Constitutional Council last month ruled that he could contest the poll.

Wade is aged 85 in a country where the average person doesn't live past 59. The AP said Wade did not give news conference himself after voting, something he has done habitually, and was spirited away by bodyguards after a mob began jeering at him.

The decision to allow Wade to run came despite changes to the constitution that limit presidents to two terms in office – with the council finding that Wade's first term did not count, as it began before the two-term rule was introduced.

Ahead of the vote, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged "peaceful and transparent" elections, while African Union president Thomas Boni Yayi called for calm, Al Jazeera reported.

Meanwhile the singer Youssou N'Dour, who was barred by the council from contesting the poll, said the decision to allow Wade to run again was a “constitutional coup d'etat.”

In a proposal rejected by both sides, African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, suggested that if elected Wade step down as president after two years, instead of seven, the AP reported.

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Wade has governed Senegal – a former French colony, and the only country in West Africa in which the army has never seized power – since 2000.

The opposition has vowed to render the country ungovernable if he wins re-election.