Senegal's President-elect Macky Sall hails 'new era'


People on the streets in Dakar celebrate Senegal's election result

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The winner of Senegal's presidential election, Macky Sall, has said the poll marks a "new era" for the country.

He was speaking after his rival, current President Abdoulaye Wade, admitted defeat in Sunday's run-off.

Mr Wade's bid for a third term in office sparked violent protests which left six people dead.

Speaking in front of thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Dakar, Mr Sall, 50, promised to be a president for all Senegalese.

Official results from Sunday's election are expected within two days.

'Model of democracy'


Street celebrations quickly followed the incumbent president's early phone call to Macky Sall to admit defeat and congratulate him. These were scenes of relief for the Senegalese. People were simply relieved that democracy had prevailed.

Many had feared that Abdoulaye Wade's candidacy for a third term meant he would try to cling to power and tarnish the country's image as a peaceful and stable democracy. Senegal hasn't suffered from a military takeover since independence but Mr Wade's intention to run again was seen as a "constitutional coup" violating a two-term limit.

After weeks of deadly protests before the first round, the Senegalese gave a lesson in democracy to West Africa - and the whole continent - using their ballots to oust Mr Wade rather than continue facing the security forces in the streets.

But Is it Macky Sall's victory or Abdoulaye Wade's defeat? As the local media were announcing results coming out of polling station one after the other after polls closed, it became clear that this election was a referendum in which people voted "no" to more of Mr Wade.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of Senegal's former colonial ruler, France, hailed the result as being "good news for Africa in general and for Senegal in particular".

"Senegal is a major African country and a model of democracy," he said.

The election comes just days after a military coup in neighbouring Mali.

Senegal remains the only country in West Africa to have never undergone a coup.

Thijs Berman, the head of the European Union observer mission to Senegal, said the results were very clear - about 65% for Mr Sall and 35% for Mr Wade so "there is no hesitation as to who is the winner".

Mr Sall stressed that the people were the main winners in the poll.

Mr Wade had "phoned his rival Macky Sall at 21:30 GMT [on Sunday] to congratulate him after the first results showed him to be the winner of a presidential run-off," the Senegalese Press Agency said.

Mr Wade, 85, has governed Senegal for 12 years.

Even before Mr Wade's concession, thousands of Sall supporters began celebrating on the streets of Dakar.

They chanted "Macky president!" and "We have won!"

Former allies

Macky Sall

A poster of Macky Sall and his supporters celebrating
  • Age: 50
  • Mayor of his home town of Fatick in central Senegal
  • From poor family background
  • Former prime minister and protege of Abdoulaye Wade
  • Fell out with president after summoning his son, Karim Wade, to answer questions in parliament
  • Backed by all main opposition candidates in second round

Mr Wade brought in a two-term limit for presidential office, but argued that the limit should not apply to his first term which came in before the constitution was changed.

His argument was upheld by the constitutional court in January, prompting widespread protests in which six people died.

In February's first round, Mr Wade fell short of a majority, polling only 34.8%. Mr Sall came second with 26.6%. But most of the other 12 candidates backed Mr Sall in the second round.

Mr Sall owes his political career to Mr Wade, and had held several ministry portfolios before becoming prime minister, the BBC's Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar.

But the two men fell out over the handling of public spending by Karim Wade, the president's unpopular son, whom many believe has been trying to succeed his father, our correspondent adds.

Mr Sall has promised that, if elected, he will shorten the presidential term to five years from the current seven, and enforce the two-term limit. He has also promised to bring in measures to reduce the price of basic foodstuffs.

The new leader also faces the difficult task of tackling rising unemployment in the country, our correspondent says.


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