Massive turnout hits Senegal's election day

February 27, 2012 12:05 pm 

By Raphael Mvogo

DAKAR, Feb. 27 — The presidential election held on Sunday in Senegal registered a massive turnout in most of the West African country.

A week after 23,000 military and paramilitary personnel cast their ballots, more than 5 million civilian voters went to the 11,904 polling stations to choose their future president for the next seven years.

One of the 14 candidates was outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, who was seeking another mandate after 2000 and 2007 elections. In the capital Dakar, in particular, the vote, marked by massive participation in hours, was unfolded in an atmosphere of calm and discipline: voters showed high interest in political affairs in their country.

By 7:00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT), or an hour before the official opening of the election, a voter giving her name only as Yai, a retired teacher, was running out patience at the polling station in the Ngalandou Diouf high school in Mermoz, a residential area in the north of the capital.

Until 10:00 a.m. local time (1000 GMT), the responsible persons remained out of view. "This is a day for the voters to show their duty. The organization is defective, because we should begin at eight. We have not begun," she told Xinhua.

"I have voted since 1974. I came very early to stand in line like all everyone," she added.

Fresh from hospitalization, Faye Ndaye, a 40-year-old bank staff, did not want to miss the "rendez-vous."

"For me, it is really a capital day. I was discharged from hospital yesterday and I was eager to come to vote. Because I think it is time to bring the change to the country and it is us, the young, who can really bring the change there," Ndaye said.

A partisan of Wade in 2000, the Muslim woman now willingly claims to be disappointed with SOPI, the incumbent's ruling coalition.

The opposition has used the disappointment as a slogan of campaign to fuel anger of Senegalese electorate of all ages.

"I began to vote in 2000. In 2007, I also voted and here again I vote once more," she declared.

In 2000, she said, "We voted for the departure of (the then president) Abdou Diouf, because we want him to leave. We effectively voted for Abdoulaye Wade.

"In 2007, we began to think that this is not the man we want. So in 2007, I voted without knowing who else," she added.

The opinion was shared by her younger sister Lara Kamara Ndaye, 26, a job seeker.

"As we say, this is the change. It is to pass to another thing, rediscover hope, because we have lost hope.

"Things pass not so well as before. We've got lost. We no longer know which way to turn. Life is expensive. We find no job. Health now costs much, always cost much," she complained.

Abdoul Aziz, a 19-year-old student of the faculty of sciences of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, said, "This is my first time. I'm come in a sense to accomplish my duty as a citizen."

He claimed to await a future president "who will bear in mind the question of the young, who will create employment and who will work for a good atmosphere in the country."

For the young voter, "not all the conditions of a good, transparent and democratic election" went together. "Because this time, we note a certain insecurity in the country. There is an instability. I'm not against Wade, but I find that he should leave, because he is old."

Youssouf Ibrahima, 20, a freshman of the Superior Institute of Management in the capital, denounced the conditions of the organization of the vote. "I find this is really poorly organized. "

"If the regime of Wade wins the elections, I think the country will see trouble. But I believe that the Senegalese are mature and they will avoid the chaos," he said.

The student did not make up his mind who to vote, saying, "No candidate is convincing. They were there for show. Nobody has unveiled a plan or program to say what they think to do actually."

"We shall see, perhaps, there will be a second round. Everyone will make a decision," he said.

There have been no major incidents reported despite fears of violence over the candidacy of Wade. Seven people have died in clashes since the Constitutional Council gave him a go-ahead late last month in a disputed bid.

The opposition vows to resist against his bid, saying it is violating the Constitution which limits the presidency to two terms. But the Constitutional Council ruled that Wade was first elected in 2000, while the new Constitution was promulgated years later.

The results of the election, which was set to close at 6:00 p.m. local time (1800 GMT), will be known next week. (PNA/Xinhua) DCT/ebp

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