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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2007, 23:20 GMT
Q&A: Senegal election
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade (L) shakes hands with former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck (R)
Idrissa Seck and President Abdoulaye Wade have buried the hatchet

Voters in the West African state of Senegal went to the polls on 25 February to elect a president.

This was Senegal's first election since a 2001 constitutional referendum reduced presidential terms from seven to five years and limited the number of consecutive terms any one person can serve to two.

Q: How powerful is the role?

Senegal has a strong presidency. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, appoints a prime minister and chairs two key security bodies.

Q: How does Senegal's voting system work?

The 2001 Constitution and the Electoral Code provide for the president to be elected through universal suffrage, with a second round if no candidate gains more than 50%.

Around 5.4 million voters out of a total population of 11 million were registered. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENA) oversees the poll; the Constitutional Council announces the final results.

Q: What happened last time?

In the first round in 2000 the current president, Abdoulaye Wade, came second to the then incumbent, President Abdou Diouf, but beat him in the run-off garnering 59% of the 1.7 million votes cast.

Q: Who are the candidates?

The Constitutional Council approved 15 candidates. The three frontrunners are:

President Abdoulaye Wade (81) was for many decades an opposition leader who was hailed for his liberal tendencies. Besides controlling the governing Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), Wade is also said to be backed by some 60 smaller opposition parties.

Idrissa Seck (47) is a devout Muslim and former prime minister, and was at one time regarded as Wade's heir, but the two fell out in mid-2005 leading to Seck's expulsion from the PDS. He has since returned to the party, but has maintained his candidacy, calling for the separation of political powers and curbs on the presidency. Opposition newspapers speculate that he will head the parliament, the National Assembly.

Moustapha Niasse (67) is another former prime minister, who contested the presidency in 2000 and came third. He is standing on the Alliance of Progress Forces (AFP) ticket, but is also backed by an 11-party alliance known as 2007 Alternative Coalition (CA 2007). He has pledged to improve governance and the economy.

Q: What are the main issues?

Migration: Opposition candidates accuse the government of failing to tackle the problem of young Senegalese trying to reach Europe in flimsy boats and without proper documentation.

Corruption: Candidates say they are committed to good governance and democracy. The opposition accuses the government of corruption and undermining civil liberties, but President Wade denies this and accuses the media of exaggerating problems.

Casamance: Peace in the volatile southern Casamance region remains a key issue. All candidates are united in rejecting the region's secessionist ambitions.

Q: Who is likely to win?

President Abdoulaye Wade remains the favourite and has been buoyed by the return to the PDS of Idrissa Seck.

Q: Can the elections be free and fair?

Parliamentary elections were due to take place at the same time as the presidential poll but have now been postponed twice. The opposition has accused President Wade of political meddling and has warned that he intends to rig the contest.

For his part, the president said "there will be no fraud" and that the new president would be elected "in a democratic manner".

Monitors were expected from the African Union, the Francophonie international organisation, and the Economic Community of West African States.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Timeline: Senegal
18 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Senegal
18 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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