February 28, 2019 / 1:47 PM / 3 months ago

Senegal president wins re-election on back of economic boom, opposition unhappy

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal President Macky Sall comfortably won another term in office in last Sunday’s election, provisional figures showed on Thursday, giving him five more years to finish a raft of modernizing projects.

However, all four opposition candidates said they rejected the result but they also said they would not appeal against it.

Senegal’s economy has boomed since Sall came to power in 2012, propelled by construction of a new airport, motorways and an extension of the electricity grid that has won applause from international donors and the local elite.

“We believed in him seven years ago, we continue to believe in him. He is a visionary...He is the future of Senegal,” Macky supporter Aicha Cisse Bottenoire said.

But rights groups criticize Sall for clamping down hard on dissent, squeezing out rivals and doing little for the poor. In the former French colony of 15 million people, the average income is less than $200 a month.

Former Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade who was in power from 2000 to 2012, were barred from running due to corruption convictions that the opposition say were politically motivated. Sall and his party deny this.

Challenger Idrissa Seck, who came second with 21 percent of votes, and Ousmane Sonko, who placed third with 16 percent, said in a joint statement: “We firmly and full heartedly reject these results. [Sall] has disregarded the will of the people.”

“We will not make an appeal to the constitutional council,” they added, without specifying what their next move might be.

Technically, losing candidates have 72 hours to register an appeal.

Their supporters gathered in front of Seck’s coalition headquarters in the capital Dakar shouting “second round”.

Most of the capital Dakar appeared quiet after the results, despite a few pockets of unrest. A dozen protesters gathered in the main university campus, throwing rocks at riot police who responded with a volley of tear gas.

Slideshow (3 Images)

“We need to stay calm...it’s not worth (protesting) when Sall has already won,” said former soldier Marcel Gomis.

Senegal has long been viewed as West Africa’s most stable democracy, with peaceful transitions of power since it gained independence in 1960.

More than 66 percent of 6.7 million registered voters took part in the election.

Additional reporting by Aaron Ross and Diadie Ba, Writing by Sofia Christensen, Editing by Alessandra Prentice, Edward McAllister and Angus MacSwan

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