DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – Senegal’s prime minister has claimed that incumbent president Macky Sall has won re-election, though the opposition rejected his assertion and said the vote should go to a runoff.
Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, who is from the ruling party, told reporters late Sunday that his unofficial results show that Sall had won 57 percent of the vote according to results compiled by their team. The winning candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round.
“Tomorrow, the people will have the results in all departments. We will see that President Sall was re-elected in the first round,” said Dionne, adding that his party’s unofficial results show that Sall won in 13 of Senegal’s 14 regions.
However, top opposition candidate Idrissa Seck told reporters that he and his supporters do not accept the unofficial reports of a Sall victory.
“We congratulate the people who have mainly expressed their choice in favor of the opposition,” said Seck. He blamed media outlets for wrongly citing results given by Sall’s party as official.
“We will not accept these results, we call on all Senegalese people to remain vigilant and carefully prepare for the second round,” said Seck.
Opposition candidate Ousmane Sonko, who is popular with the youth, also spoke at a press conference with Seck and agreed that preliminary results indicate a second round should be held.
“I call on the religious leaders to call the ruling party to their senses,” said Sonko.
The official results announced by Senegal’s electoral commission are not expected until at least Tuesday.
If no candidate wins a clear majority of more than 50 percent, the country will go to a second round of voting next month.
Sall faced four challengers in Sunday’s vote including Seck, who has run for the office twice before.
The 57-year-old incumbent sought re-election on his record of building roads and creating jobs, while opposition supporters maintained those efforts had not reached many in this West African country where young men often risk their lives to migrate to Europe.
This year’s vote also has been marked by allegations that the presidency had effectively blocked two prominent opposition politicians from taking part: Dakar’s former mayor and the son of the president who Sall had ousted from office in 2012.
That year he had campaigned on a message of change to beat longtime former President Abdoulaye Wade. A constitutional referendum since then has shortened the presidential term from seven years to five. Sall weathered some criticism after he still finished out his seven-year mandate following that law change.
Senegal has long been a democratic example in West Africa where coups and clinging to power used to be all too common in neighboring countries. European Union election observers reported no major irregularities by mid-day Sunday.
Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.