Senegal president concedes defeat, congratulates rival Eds: Begins new cycle, releads with results
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade has conceded defeat and congratulated his rival Macky Sall, after initial results showed Sall had won Sunday's election by a majority, dpa reported.
According to state broadcaster RTS, Wade telephoned Sall, his former prime minister, at about 9:30 pm (2130 GMT) to congratulate him on his victory. At that time, Sall had about 30,000 votes to Wade's 11,000, RTS reported.
Outside Sall's party headquarters, thousands of people gathered to celebrate. They danced through the streets, setting off fireworks and singing. Some clambered onto the roofs of taxis and waved posters of Sall in the air.
"Macky is the winner!" voter Pape Bally told dpa. "Wade conceded defeat with grace. I am so excited."
"Wade used the only card he had that would enable him to leave by the door and not by the window of history," Senegalese writer Mamadou Thiam said on Sunday evening.
Sunday's runoff vote followed a tense first round held in February, in which 85-year-old Wade, who has been in power for 12 years, beat 50-year-old Sall by about 8 per cent. Wade had stood for a third term despite a two-term constitutional limit.
Sall campaigned on a platform of creating more jobs in rural areas and bringing down rising food prices. This struck a chord with Senegal's unemployed and disillusioned youths in a country where the average age is 19.
"The Senegalese people have made it clear that they have had enough of the current leadership, that they want to turn the page," Sall told dpa in an interview on the eve of Sunday's poll. "If Wade does not win, I hope he will have the wisdom to step down gracefully."
Wade, who was elected in 2000 on a platform of democracy and human rights, maintained that his candidacy is fair, that his age should not have been an issue, and that he had more work to do for Senegal.
Sunday's poll was monitored by about 300 international observers from the European Union, African Union and ECOWAS regional body of states. The EU mission called the poll "a lesson in democracy for the region."
An official vote count is expected within 48 hours.