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Senegal sets date for runoff vote

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Senegal's presidential election second round runoff between the incumbent Abdoulaye Wade and ex-prime minister Macky Sall will be held on March 25, the electoral commission has announced.

Wade, 85, on Saturday called for a recount of the first round vote in a southern constituency, which has to be examined within five days by the constitutional council.

Under the constitution, the second round must take place on the third Sunday following the last date for publication of the disputed result, in this case on March 25.

The final council decision, however, is not expected to significantly change the results of the first round which took place on February 26.

The campaign for the runoff vote will start as soon as final results have been published, or Thursday at the latest.

Wade, who has been in power for 12 years and is bidding for a third term in office in a move that has triggered weeks of sometimes deadly protests, won 34.8 per cent of the vote, or 942,546 votes, in the first round, according to provisional results.

He was well short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

His former premier-turned-challenger Macky Sall, 50, won 26.5 per cent - 719,369 votes.

In third and fourth place were two other one-time members of Wade's inner circle - former prime ministers Moustapha Niasse, with 357,347 votes, or 13.2 per cent, and Idrissa Seck with 212,848, or 7.86 per cent

Turnout in the February election hovered around the 51 per cent mark, authorities said.

Wade's third-term bid has proved to be a test of Senegal's democratic credentials, prompting international concern and weeks of protests.

Despite having served two terms in office, a limit he himself introduced, Wade says 2008 constitutional changes extending term lengths to seven years allow him to serve two more mandates.

He has been roundly criticised for seeking to hang on to power, a move that sparked street protests displaying public outrage and rising discontent.

The poll-linked violence claimed at least six lives, according to sources. The Senegalese Red Cross said it had treated 153 people for injuries in less than a month.

Senegal, a former French colony, is one of the continent's pioneer democracies, and it boasts an unbroken series of elections since independence in 1960.


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