Sene­gal casts votes af­ter tense elec­tion cam­paign

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Sene­galese vot­ers cast bal­lots yes­ter­day to elect a new par­lia­ment, a test run for Pres­i­dent Macky Sall ahead of a 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and af­ter a cam­paign marred by vi­o­lence and ten­sions. Most of the 14,000 polling sta­tions opened at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) but there were de­lays in sev­eral places af­ter some sites were hit by a vi­o­lent overnight storm, lo­cal me­dia re­ported. Polling ends at 6:00 pm and the first re­sults are ex­pected to­day.

More than 6.2 mil­lion peo­ple in the west African na­tion are reg­is­tered to vote. Sall is seek­ing to bol­ster his par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity as he eyes a sec­ond term, while his pre­de­ces­sor Ab­doulaye Wade, 91, at­tempts to drum up sup­port for his own list of can­di­dates and for his son, Karim, who is wait­ing in the wings with eyes on the top job. “We aren’t talk­ing any longer about July 30, but of 2019,” Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hammed Boun Ab­dal­lah Dionne, who is run­ning for a seat with Sall’s coali­tion, de­clared at a rally.

In a sign of grow­ing ten­sions, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ab­doulaye Daouda Diallo banned in­ter-re­gional travel yes­ter­day un­til mid­night. Sall’s other main op­po­nent, Dakar Mayor Khal­ifa Sall (no re­la­tion), is in jail await­ing trial for what sup­port­ers say are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated em­bez­zle­ment charges.

The mayor had been seen as a key con­tender for 2019 and a po­ten­tial threat to the pres­i­dent in par­lia­ment un­til he was charged in March with al­legedly mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing 1.83 bil­lion CFA francs ($2.85 mil­lion, 2.7 mil­lion euros) in city funds. There are a record 47 lists of can­di­dates con­test­ing the elec­tion, with 165 law­mak­ers due to take seats in par­lia­ment. Fif­teen seats are be­ing set aside for Sene­galese ex­pa­tri­ates-the first time that the coun­try’s di­as­pora, es­ti­mated at half a mil­lion, will have di­rect rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Vi­o­lent clashes

Po­lice have fired tear gas and ar­rested dozens dur­ing at times vi­o­lent cam­paign­ing that left sev­eral in­jured in a coun­try nor­mally known for its peace­ful demo­cratic tra­di­tions. Wade at­tempted to cam­paign in a down­town square he had de­creed a re­stricted zone while still pres­i­dent in 2011, an area just me­ters from the pres­i­den­tial palace. He was pushed back by se­cu­rity forces, lead­ing to sev­eral ar­rests. — AFP

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