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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Dakar
"This dispute is unusual"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 February, 2000, 03:50 GMT
Row over Senegal vote

Abdoulaye Wade greets supporters
Abdoulaye Wade has considerable public support


By Mark Doyle in Dakar

A dispute has arisen about presidential election in the West African state of Senegal, even before official figures are released.

A spokesman for the incumbent president, Abdou Diouf, says that statistical projections made it probable he had won the necessary simple majority to win in Sunday's first round of voting.

President Diouf at polling station Making his mark: President Diouf casts his vote
However, the main opposition leader, Abdulaye Wade says that a second run-off round will be necessary.

Although election disputes are common in Africa, this case is unusual.

Opposition confident

Senegal has had a multi-party system since the mid 1970s. But ironically, given this situation, the governing party has held power since independence, thanks to widespread use of state funds for political patronage.

These elections have seen several key defections from the governing party, and the main opposition leader, Abdulaye Wade, appears very confident.

He has made it clear he will not accept yet another victory by the ruling Socialist Party.

He threatened to call on the army to intervene - in effect, recommending a coup d'etat - if there was any suspicion of cheating by his long-time rival Abdou Diouf.

"If he declares himself winner of the election, there will be clash in the country and as a consequence, demonstration and violence," Mr Wade told the BBC.

This scenario could be dismissed as unlikely and as irresponsible scaremongering from Abdulaye Wade.

But a surprise coup d'etat occurred in similar circumstances just last month in the West African state of Ivory Coast.

Election violence

There was a high turnout in the presidential elections, but voting was disrupted in parts of the southern Casamance region, where a simmering rebellion has been taking place for many years.

A statement from the Senegalese military said rebels had attacked villages in two locations but that the army had pushed them back.

There were also isolated violent incidents directly related to the elections, but not the widespread unrest that the opposition had been hinting at prior to the polls.

Overturned vehicle in Rufisque There has been some violence in the run-up to the vote
Queues

In central Dakar, long lines of voters queued up patiently, many of them wearing the beautiful flowing robes or bou bous that are a hallmark of this part of West Africa.

They registered, chose their candidate, then dipped their fingers in indelible ink - one of the measures designed to prevent double voting or other types of fraud.

The ruling Socialist Party had clearly mobilised the powerful electoral machine it has built up over 40 unbroken years in power.

But opposition parties, led by Mr Wade, were also very active, hoping that this time they could achieve their election slogan Sopi, which means "change" in the local Wollof language.

Senegal was one of the first African states to adopt a multi-party political system in the early 1980s and, for a long time, was held up as a beacon of democracy on a continent of one-party states and military dictatorships.

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See also:
25 Feb 00 |  Africa
Election violence in Senegal
16 Feb 00 |  Africa
Violence prompts fears for Senegal poll

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