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SENEGAL

Wade heads to provinces to campaign for run-off

Latest update : 08/03/2012

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Article text by News Wires

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade headed to the provinces Thursday to begin his two-week campaign ahead of the second round of the presidential election. The aged incumbent faces a run-off against rival Macky Sall on March 25.

AFP - Senegal's veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade on Thursday launched into a two-week poll campaign facing defeat by rival Macky Sall in his controversial bid for a third term in office.

The 85-year-old incumbent headed to the provinces on Thursday to court leaders of the influential Islamic brotherhoods whose stamp of approval is seen as essential to sway voters in the majority Muslim nation on the tip of West Africa.

"Wade is convinced that only ndiguels can help him catch up" his rival, wrote news website Dakaractu, referring to voting recommendations in the local Wolof language.

The president suffered a humiliating setback in a first round election on February 26, in which he scored 34.81 percent and his ex-prime minister 26.58 - forcing him to defend his third term bid in a run-off poll on March 25.

Wade's spokesman El Hadj Amadou Sall said the incumbent and his supporters would not be dissuaded and would take to the campaign trial with "confidence and aggressiveness."

The Senegalese Press Agency reported Thursday that the Wade camp has set up a special commission to evaluate what went wrong in the election in which he had vowed a crushing victory in the face of violent protests against his ambitions which could see him ruling into his 90s if re-elected.

The rival sides say they are preparing rallies in the upcoming days.

Sall, 50, is an engineer who is taking part in his first election, having once been pegged as Wade's successor before a bitter falling out.

After his strong showing in the first round he has won support from the most influential candidates trailing him as the opposition seeks to unseat the sit-tight leader Wade.

Wade's opponents combined scored more than 60 percent of the votes cast in the first round, a sign of the sharp drop in the president's popularity since he was re-elected in 2007 with 55 percent.

Senegal's reputation as a haven of stability and one of Africa's pioneer democracies was shaken in the run-up to the election with four weeks of riots which left six dead and some 150 injured.

The opposition accuses Wade of circumventing a two-term limit he himself inserted into the constitution in order to cling to power. This is seen as a way to line up his unpopular son Karim to succeed him.

However the country's highest court upheld his argument that a 2008 constitutional amendment altering term lengths from five to seven years, allowed him another term.