- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DAKAR, SENEGAL | Senegal’s president conceded Tuesday he could be forced into a runoff election after failing to secure the outright majority for a disputed third term.

Abdoulaye Wade, 85, conceded he had not persuaded voters outright in Sunday’s balloting to return him to office, with provisional results showing ex-Prime Minister Macky Sall hot on his heels.

His candidacy had sparked a month of riots that left six dead and marred the West African nation’s credentials as a beacon of stability.

“The numbers are clear. We are headed to a second round,” said spokesman El Hadj Amadou Sall, a leader of Mr. Wade’s campaign.

Results show a tight race between Mr. Wade and his former protege, Macky Sall, 50, who described the results as a “massive rejection of the outgoing president.”

An AFP tally of official results released by the Senegalese Press Agency of 39 of the country’s 45 districts, put Mr. Wade ahead with 32.6 percent, followed by Mr. Sall with 25.8 percent.

The national electoral commission has yet to announce its final official result, but Western observers also said a second round was inevitable.

“There will very likely be a second round. Any other outcome seems statistically impossible after what we know and hear,” Thijs Berman, chief of the European Union observer mission, told journalists.

The United States’ top Africa diplomat, Johnnie Carson, said that “early results indicate that a second round of voting is highly likely.”

“We call upon all political party leaders and their supporters to follow the rule of law and respect the results,” Mr. Carson added.

The African Union observer team urged political leaders and their supporters to “accept the outcome of the elections.”

The opposition savored its strong showing after weeks of violent protests in a bid to pressure Mr. Wade to retire.

The leader is seeking a new seven-year term that would put him in office into his 90s after circumventing a two-term limit he introduced into the constitution.

He says changes extending term lengths from five to seven years made in 2008 allow him a fresh mandate. The country’s highest court upheld his argument, set off a wave of riots that sparked international concern.

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