Senegal opposition rallies ahead of presidential run-off

Thousands rallied in Senegal’s capital over the weekend in support of opposition candidate Macky Sall ahead of a presidential run-off election scheduled for March 25, AFP reports.

The 12 opposition candidates that fell off in the first round of the vote last month attended the demonstration, together representing roughly 60 percent of the ballot. Incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade came in first with 35 percent on the vote, followed by Sall who took 26 percent, Voice of America reports.

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South Africa’s News 24 reports that since Wade’s last re-election in 2007, his popularity has plummeted as food prices have soared and frequent power cuts have hurt the economy.  While courting Islamic leaders in the mostly-Muslim country, Wade said he did not win an outright majority in the first round because, "the West was campaigning against me," News 24 reports.

Both the U.S. and France urged the 85-year-old leader to retire as his campaign sparked anger among Senegal’s opposition supporters, AFP reports. A law dictating a two-term limit was passed under Wade’s leadership, only to be circumvented by Wade himself. On Jan. 27, a Senegalese court declared his candidacy legal, while cutting other popular candidates out of the race, including Grammy-award winning musician, Youssou Ndour.

Protests in the run-up to the election turned violent, leaving six dead and more than 150 injured, News 24 reports. At this weekend’s demonstration, former prime minister and presidential ally Macky Sall told journalists that the opposition is now united against the president’s re-election.

“We're putting an end to social injustice,” he said at the rally, according to VOA. “We are putting an end to waste, and corruption, which is conducted in this government. We are putting the resources of this country at working people's disposal, at the disposal of the Senegalese school for health, we are working for the people.”

Wade’s campaign also remains confident of eminent victory, saying the opposition has the right to rally in the capital, but it will not determine the out come of the vote.

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“In the center of our strategy is the citizen, or the voters, and that is why President Wade is going to the villages and in the countryside to meet and talk with people,” Wade campaign spokesperson Amadou Sall told VOA in an on-air interview. “But, in the strategy of Macky Sall, he needs all losers and he proposed to have them in a government and he will sign anything with his losers. A man that goes and signs with losers is a loser.”

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