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EU Foreign Policy Chief Hails Conduct Of Senegal Elections

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday congratulated the people of Senegal as well as the authorities there on their conduct of the recent presidential run-off in an orderly and transparent manner.

"I congratulate the people of Senegal and their leaders, the political parties and civil society for the democratic spirit they have shown. Thanks to the attitude of its citizens and authorities, today is a great victory for democracy, in Senegal and in Africa as a whole," she said in a statement.

Noting that preliminary results indicated a clear victory for Opposition leader Macky Sall in the second round presidential elections held earlier this month, Ashton commented on the "sense of responsibility shown" by outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade in accepting the poll outcome.

She thanked EU Parliament member Thijs Berman and members of his EU Election Observation Mission as well as the European Parliament delegation led by Santiago Fisas Ayxela for their "active commitment helping to increase the transparency and credibility of the electoral process."

The March 18 run-off pitted Wade against Sall, who was widely expected to win the second round as most of the candidates defeated in the first round had extended their support to him in the run-off. The second round was forced as none of the candidates managed to secure the minimum required 50 percent of the votes in the first round held on February 26 to avoid a run-off.

Sall had promised in campaign to cut down the current seven-year presidential term to five if elected and to enforce a two-term limit for Presidents. He had also assured measures to bring down soaring food prices.

Senegal had witnessed violent clashes after Wade announced his intentions to seek a consecutive third term in office despite constitutional restrictions. At least six people were killed in the violence.

Wade, who first came to power in 2000, was re-elected in 2007. Soon after assuming office, he brought down the presidential term to five years, but amended the Constitution in 2008 to restore it to seven years again.

The Constitutional Council, the country's highest court, validated his candidacy on January 27, ruling that his first term in office did not count as it started before the two-year limit was introduced in 2001.

Senegal is the only West African nation where the Army had not seized power. The country has been holding democratic elections ever since gaining independence from France in 1960, and is considered to be a stable democracy.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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