/ 2 March 2007

Senegal’s Wade re-elected, warns opposition

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade comfortably won a second term in Sunday’s election, results showed on Thursday, and he warned opposition leaders they could now face corruption probes suspended during the poll campaign.

The octogenarian president, who has ruled the West African state since 2000, won nearly 56% of votes and almost four times as many as his nearest rival.

Senegal’s National Vote Counting Commission said that of 3,4-million valid votes cast, Wade had received 1,9-million, or 55,9%. Turnout was a high 70,5%.

Wade’s estranged former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, who he briefly jailed on corruption charges in 2005, came second with 14,9%. He was followed by Ousmane Tanor Dieng of the main opposition Socialist Party, with 13,6%.

”With my score, I don’t need anyone to govern: I am walking on clouds. However, I call on the opposition to consider what we can do together,” Wade told a news conference in the presidential palace, lambasting the media for doubting him.

The results, which must be confirmed by the Constitutional Council, are in line with unofficial figures released this week.

Wade accused Seck of holding millions of dollars in bank accounts and suggested Tanor Dieng might be linked to corrupt fishing licences under the previous Socialist government.

While cautioning against any witch-hunt, Wade said: ”Now justice must run its course.”

Wade credited his easy victory to overwhelming support in rural areas. He said it would be his last term as president.

Three days to appeal

Opposition parties, some of which say they have evidence of fraud and will challenge Wade’s victory, have three days to lodge objections to the results.

Dieng’s campaign has said it had evidence of a plot to rig the vote, and on Tuesday displayed voter cards bearing the same name as proof that some people were voted twice in the election.

Other opposition parties have complained that supposedly indelible ink used to mark voters’ fingers in fact washed off.

Monitors from West Africa’s regional organisation Ecowas said the vote was sufficiently free and fair, although Paris-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières said state media gave Wade and his campaign overwhelming coverage.

Wade’s critics say he has failed to deliver on promises to improve living standards in the former French colony, most of whose nearly 12-million people live from farming and fishing.

They point to the drama of thousands of desperate young Senegalese who have been risking their lives in flimsy fishing boats to try to reach Europe via the Spanish Canary Islands.

Wade appealed to voters to repeat their choice in parliamentary elections in June.

”I congratulate those who voted for me and I ask them to give me a comfortable parliamentary majority to allow me to take all decisions without negotiation,” Wade said, as a crowd of cheering supporters gathered outside the presidential palace.

In Dakar’s Sandaga market, run largely by members of the pro-Wade Mouride Islamic brotherhood, the reaction was muted.

”If it had been the Socialists who had won, people would have been celebrating. But as Wade was already in place we are still in the same rhythm … so nothing has changed,” said Malick Diouf (28) who sells televisions in the market.

Others welcomed the decision to give Wade more time.

”He has worked hard for the country, despite the fact that life here is hard. He has started to build things and he’s increased state salaries and pensions,” said Adama Kane, 60, who sells cloth in Sandaga market. – Reuters