Senegal's president says he'll face runoff

Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal, casts his vote at the polling station in the suburb of Point E on Sunday in Dakar.

Story highlights

  • President Abdoulaye Wade got 32% of the vote Sunday
  • He is likely to face his former prime minister in a March runoff
  • Wade was booed as he casts his ballot in Dakar on Sunday
  • His bid for a third term provoked violent demonstrations in Senegal

Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade acknowledged Monday that he fell short of a majority in his country's weekend presidential vote and will have to face a runoff.

The 85-year-old Wade is seeking a third term, but his 32% showing in results from Sunday's balloting was well short of the outright majority he had vowed to win. He was booed and jeered when he cast his vote in a contest overshadowed by violent protests. He sounded a conciliatory note toward the public during a Monday night news conference.

"I would like to pay homage to you, my dear compatriots, for the maturity, spirit of tolerance, and the civility that you have shown," Wade said.

He offered words of respect for his 13 opponents, whom he called "bad politicians and bad losers" mere days before.

Wade is likely to face Macky Sall, his former prime minister and protege, in the March runoff. Sall amassed 25% of the vote on Monday evening and is expected to have the support of several of the other candidates, who vowed solidarity against Wade in February.

Senegal, a small country on Africa's west coast, has been an outpost of democratic stability in a region with a history of electoral chaos, civil wars and coups. But deadly demonstrations broke out after the country's highest court cleared Wade to seek a third term in January, and protesters demanded that Wade give up his bid for a new mandate.

Protesters, police clash in Senegal

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    Protesters, police clash in Senegal

Protesters, police clash in Senegal 01:59
The sounds of Senegal

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    The sounds of Senegal

The sounds of Senegal 08:21

Opponents argue that the court was compromised and the constitution limits presidents to two terms. But Wade successfully argued that he is exempt because he took office in 2000, before the term limit was put in place.

"We've had enough of this regime of thieves and assassins. We will defeat them here," said Cheikh Gassama, a voter at Wade's polling place.

Gassama and others chanted "Na Dem" -- "step down" -- as the president arrived. Wade did not address the crowd, looked visibly frustrated at one point and made some sort of gesture to the crowd, which also included some of his supporters.

Wade once was hailed as a visionary, but his popularity has plummeted.

"Wade built schools, roads and hospitals," said Ayo Johnson, an analyst on African affairs. "His leadership has now failed. ... There are increasing levels of poverty, inequality, lack of jobs and an increasing numbers of disillusioned youth."

Protesters calling for Wade's ouster have clashed on the streets, with at least three people killed during demonstrations last weekend, an opposition leader said. At least two others died in previous clashes.

A presidential spokesman has accused opposition candidates and their supporters of fueling "urban guerrilla warfare" leading up to Sunday's vote. But Amath Dansokho, head of the opposition June 23 Movement, blamed police for the escalating violence, saying they were responsible for some deaths during demonstrations in Dakar and Rufisque this month.

The presidential spokesman denied the police or military were involved in the deaths.