Senegalese await the outcome of a peaceful presidential vote, following months of unrest

Senegalese anxiously awaited the results of a presidential election Monday, following months of uncertainty and unrest that tested the country’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region rife with coups.

The vote Sunday was largely peaceful with a high turnout, observers said. Results from polling stations that had completed counting were posted overnight on social media with official announcements expected later this week.

More than 7 million people were registered to vote in a country of roughly 17 million. To win in the first round, a candidate must gain more than 50% or it goes to a runoff.

Analysts say a second round is likely, between opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye and former Prime Minister Amadou Ba, the candidate for the governing party.

Some opposition supporters Sunday night were adamant their candidate had already won. In the capital, Dakar, some people sat on car rooftops chanting, while others carried flags, banners and set off fireworks saying Faye would win outright.

“The news is circulating ... there will be no second round,” said Dime Jueye, a local vendor.

This is Senegal’s fourth democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from France more than six decades ago. It took place one month later than initially scheduled after President Macky Sall tried to delay it until the end of the year. Sall is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and is expected to step down on April 2 when his mandate ends.

After the polls closed Sunday, voters praised the peaceful outcome amid concerns after months of deadly protests ignited last summer by the jailing of the popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and concerns that the president wanted to stay in power. Rights groups said dozens were killed, while hundreds more were jailed.

In a move that defused tensions just ahead of the election, Sonko was released after months in prison along with Faye, to jubilant celebrations on the streets of Dakar. Sonko was barred from the race in January due to a prior conviction and Faye ran in his place.

“Our democracy will emerge stronger from these results,” Ndeye Sow, 27, told The Associated Press. “We’re delighted, there was no violence here serenity is the order of the day,” she said.

But the atmosphere remained tense in some parts of the country as votes were counted. Locals pelted a visiting government delegation with jeers and stones in the northern fishing town of Saint Louis after they entered a closed polling station.

Source: AP

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