Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has conceded election defeat and congratulated Macky Sall, as preliminary results gave an overwhelming lead to his runoff rival.
“We have confirmation now from the presidential office that Abdoulaye Wade has telephoned Macky Sall to concede defeat,” said Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, confirming a state television report that Wade had made a congratulatory phone call to Sall at 21:30GMT (9:30pm local time) on Sunday.
The phone call alleviated fears that Wade, 85, would attempt to stay in office by challenging the runoff results. It was seen as bolstering the West African state’s democratic credentials in a region fraught with political chaos.
Official results of the vote are not expected until Tuesday or Wednesday.
“It is the whole country that has just won,” Amadou Sall, a spokesman for Wade, told the Reuters news agency. “This is a big moment for democracy and President Abdoulaye Wade has respected the voice of the people.”
Even before Wade conceded, Sall’s supporters began celebrating in the streets of the capital, singing and marching through downtown Dakar.
Sall, a former prime minister who served for years under Wade, said: “We have shown to the world that our
democracy is mature. I will be the president of all the Senegalese.”
“I think tonight is a great night for Senegalese people,” Aly Fary Ndieye, a Senegalese political analyst told Al Jazeera.
“[Voters] have chosen someone who has a very clear record… and good candidate.
“We have never seen a president elected with this kind of landslide victory [in Senegal]. It gives a lot of political capital [to Sall]. The question now is how will Macky Sall turn this win into political power.
“The biggest challenge now is how to effectively implement policies to benefit Senegalese people,” he said.
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.
Opposition activists had said Wade’s quest for a third term was unconstitutional and some voters viewed him as yet another example of a long-serving African leader seeking to hang on to power.
His decision to seek re-election had infuriated many voters, and intense protests left at least six people dead.
Analysts had warned of further unrest if Wade won.
Polling stations closed after a largely peaceful electoral exercise on Sunday that attracted more than five million voters, with local reports suggesting a high turnout.
As votes were tallied, state media released a stream of results which showed former prime minister Sall far ahead of Wade, who was roundly beaten in his home polling station in the suburb of Point-E.
Sall had reportedly also won the vote in the biggest suburbs Pikine and Guediawaye among other areas of the city.
“Winning the suburbs is first and foremost the most important indicators in assessing how a candidate has fared,” Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa said.
“They are the most populous parts of the country and therefore hold much sway on the direction of the vote.”