EIGHTY-FIVE-year old president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, conceded defeat on Sunday to his opponent in the nation’s presidential election re-rerun, hours after the poll closed across
the country, signaling another isolated success in a region where leaders have a tendency to hold on power like it was their lifeblood.
The winner is Macky Sall, a former protégé of Mr. Wade, who Wade called around 9:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) Sunday to congratulate him on his victory, according to state television. The move alleviated fears that Wade would attempt to stay in office after 12 years or would challenge the runoff results.
Even before Wade conceded, Sall's supporters began celebrating in the streets of the capital, singing and marching through downtown Dakar. Some even danced on the roofs of moving vehicles, and one man did a cartwheel amid the traffic near the Place de l'Independance.
Sociologist Hadiya Tandian said that Wade's concession washes away the wounds of a violent election season, which left at least six people dead and tarnished the country's reputation.
"This is a great victory for Senegal — it shows the maturity of our democracy," Tandian said. "It shows that the Senegalese believe in their voter IDs, that a voter card can change something, can make a difference. It shows that our long democratic heritage continues to live in us day by day."
At a midnight press conference at a hotel, Sall said the maturity of Senegalese voters was a source of pride.
"Tonight, a new era begins for Senegal," he told hundreds of journalists and supporters.
Wade, who first took office in 2000, has seen his popularity suffer amid soaring costs of living and unemployment in this country on Africa's western coast.
He spent 25 years in the opposition fighting to loosen the grip of the former socialist party, which ruled this former French colony for 40 years since independence in 1960.
His image began to suffer after he began giving an increasing share of power to his son Karim, who was derisively called "the Minister of the Sky and the Earth" after he was handed control of multiple ministries including infrastructure and energy.
Wade's reputation took a nosedive when he announced last year that he planned to run for a third term. For weeks leading up to last month's election, protesters calling for Wade to step down hurled rocks at police in demonstrations that paralyzed the capital's economic heart.
Marieme Ousmane Wele, 55, said she had voted for Sall because the rising prices of basic goods have made her life increasingly difficult.
"I sell cereal made from corn but the price of corn has really gone up. Now, I don't have many customers and it's becoming difficult to feed my own family," she said, as men sat nearby on plastic lawn chairs in the sand listening to news about the election on portable radios.
- Report courtesy of Associated Press