Senegal’s Macky Sall claimed victory on Monday in a hotly contended presidential election over incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, who quickly conceded defeat in a move that could bolster the West African state’s democratic credentials. Thousands of residents of the capital Dakar poured onto the streets overnight, honking car horns, beating drums and singing in hope of change after 12 years of Wade rule that has seen big infrastructure spending but little progress in tackling poverty.
“The big winner tonight is the Senegalese people,” Sall, 50, said of a smoothly-held election that contrasted with the chaos in neighboring Mali after last week’s coup by army mutineers. “We have shown to the world our democracy is mature. I will be the president of all the Senegalese,” said Sall, a former prime minister for Wade who acrimoniously split from his mentor in 2008, told an overnight news conference.
Wade, 85, in power since 2000, began his career as president with a sterling democratic reputation but drew criticism for seeking to extend his rule with a third term, setting off street protests in which six people were killed. “Results coming in suggest Mr Macky Sall has won. As I always promised, I called him in the evening of March 25 to congratulate him,” said Wade, who faced pressure from France, the United States and others not to stand for a new term.