[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 15:02 GMT
Clashes ahead of Senegal election
By Will Ross
BBC News, Dakar

Cars vandalised in Senegal attacks
Clashes have heightened tension in the lead-up to the polls
Rival supporters have clashed in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, ahead of Sunday's presidential elections.

Fights between supporters of President Abdoulaye Wade and those of his former prime minister-turned-rival, Idrissa Seck, left five people seriously hurt.

Mr Wade is facing a strong challenge after seven years in office and recent violence has heightened tension.

Senegal is seen as a rare model of democracy in Africa and it is a stable country in a troubled region.

According to eyewitnesses, a convoy of Mr Seck's campaign team was attacked as it passed near the home of an influential religious leader, or marabout.

Senegal's Muslim brotherhoods play a significant role in the country's political arena.

Although they say they were provoked, the young followers of one marabout, who is backing President Wade's re-election, threw rocks and used knives and batons against the passing convoy.

Several vehicles were wrecked in the process.

Compared to pre-election violence in other African countries, the clashes in Senegal were on a small scale. But here such violence is rare.

So waking up to see newspapers showing photos of the victims with serious head injuries has come as a shock to many Senegalese.

Wide field

There are 15 candidates in Sunday's election. Despite being 80 years old, President Wade is the favourite and enjoys the benefits of incumbency.

But acquiring more than 50% of the votes will be hard because of the sheer number of candidates.

So a second round is a strong possibility and President Wade knows all too well the danger that could pose.

After several failed attempts at the presidency, he defeated Abdou Diouf in the last election in 2000, when several candidates teamed up with him for the second round of voting.

That was one of the extremely rare examples in Africa of a peaceful transfer of power from one leader to a rival.

With high unemployment and increased living costs, President Wade is under pressure.

His supporters point to large scale infrastructure projects.

But his detractors say not enough has been done in the area of job creation which is seen as the only way of stemming immigration.

As one of the major set-off points for the thousands of Africans trying to make it illegally by sea to Europe, immigration is a key issue in Senegal's election campaign.

Q&A: Senegal election
21 Feb 07 |  Africa
Country profile: Senegal
18 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific