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Senegal opposition’s Faye leads early presidential election results

Yoopya with Reuters

DAKAR, March 25 (Reuters) – Early results in Senegal’s presidential election suggest opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye may have clinched an outright majority, though his rival in the ruling coalition said a run-off vote would be needed to determine the winner.

Opposition supporters celebrated in the streets of the capital Dakar into the early hours of Monday after local media channels started announcing polling station tallies that put Faye, 44, comfortably ahead of his main rival, Amadou Ba.

“I am happy to see there is a wind of change,” said Tall, who joined revellers during the night as supporters waved Senegalese flags, lit flares and blasted vuvuzelas.

“It is wonderful because democracy has won. Many thought it would not happen,” he said, only wishing to give his first name.

Several opposition contenders in Sunday’s election conceded defeat to Faye during the night, including Anta Babacar Ngom, the only woman running.

Another main candidate, ex-Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, congratulated Faye as “significant trends placed him at the top of the ballot”. Another candidate, former interior minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, who left the government in September to run as an independent, also congratulated Faye on Monday.

An analyst on private channel RFM put Faye ahead with around 57% against 31% for Ba, and most newspapers headlines on Monday morning were congratulating him.

Official results are expected to be announced by the Dakar appeals court on Friday. The electoral commission has not yet communicated on the tallies counted so far out of 15,633 voting stations.

Many hope the election will bring stability and an economic boost to Senegal after three years of unprecedented political turbulence in one of coup-prone West Africa’s only stable democracies, which is set to start producing oil and gas this year.

Ba, 62, is the candidate backed by outgoing President Macky Sall, who is stepping down amid a drop in popularity after two terms in office marred by economic hardship and violent anti-government protests.

His campaign organisers said in a statement late on Sunday that celebrations of Faye’s victory were premature and “manipulative”, and that official results would show a second round of voting was needed.

“Let’s respect the democratic game. Let’s respect the polls,” Ba said during a late night press briefing.

Faye has not publicly spoken since he cast his vote. He owes much of his success to the backing of firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who is barred from running due to a defamation conviction.

The two former tax inspectors have campaigned together under the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko”, promising to fight corruption and prioritise national economic interests.

They are particularly popular among young voters in a country where more than 60% of people are under 25 and struggle to find jobs.

Police crackdowns on protests, the government’s failure to cushion rising living costs and concerns Sall would seek to extend his mandate beyond constitutional limits have buoyed the opposition.

Anger crystallised around Sonko’s prosecution only grew when authorities sought to postpone the vote, initially scheduled to take place in February, by 10 months.

Investors are meanwhile wary about a potential change in leadership to an anti-establishment government that may not pursue the same business friendly policies seen under Sall’s government that has attracted investments into infrastructure.

Senegal’s bonds fell as much as 2.2 cents on the dollar on news of the early results before recovering most of their losses.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Additional reporting by Ngouda Dione Rachel Savage; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Silvia Aloisi, Bernadette Baum and Angus MacSwan

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Senegal opposition’s Faye leads early presidential election results

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