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Senegal: Opposition calls for suspension of the publication of legislative election results

Senegal opposition coalition leader   -  
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Senegal

Senegal's opposition has called for the suspension of the publication of the results of Sunday's legislative elections to examine its complaints over alleged "irregularities" and "fraud".

Both the government and opposition camps are claiming victory after Sunday's vote to renew the 165 seats in the National Assembly, which is largely controlled by the presidential coalition. 

"We ask the president of the National Commission for the Census of Votes to suspend the publication of the results scheduled for this Thursday at 5pm to allow the opposition inter-coalition to review the results poll by poll, we can even do it in public session so that the Senegalese people can see with us the irregularities that are unacceptable''. Déthié Fall, a member of the opposition said at a press conference. 

"We will not accept this attempt to confiscate the vote. I appeal to President Macky Sall because at a certain point a man must know how to be great."  another opposition leader Ousmane Sonko said at the briefing.

The opposition had hoped the elections would impose a cohabitation, or divided government, on Sall and curb any ambitions he may have for a third term.

The polls, the last before presidential elections in 2024, were an important test for Sall after local elections in January saw the opposition win in major cities, including the capital Dakar, Ziguinchor in the south and Thies in the west.

Toure on Sunday night claimed to have won 30 of the 46 departments in the country and overseas constituencies.

"This undoubtedly gives us a majority in the National Assembly," she said, while acknowledging her coalition had been defeated in Dakar.

- Opposition collaboration -

The main opposition coalition, however, expressed "astonishment" at Toure's remarks, claiming it had won a "comfortable majority" and that the presidential camp was "looking to once again confiscate the vote".

"We call on national and international opinion to act as witnesses against any attempt to manipulate the results," the opposition said in a statement Monday.

Ahead of the election, Yewwi Askan Wi ("Liberate the People" in Wolof, one of Senegal's national languages), the main opposition coalition headed by Ousmane Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, joined forces with Wallu Senegal ("Save Senegal"), led by former president Abdoulaye Wade.

The two groups agreed to work together to obtain a parliamentary majority and "force governmental cohabitation".

"The provisional results of the legislative elections show that the President of the Republic Macky Sall lost the elections ... and that he will not have a majority in the National Assembly," Wallu Senegal declared Monday.

The coalition also said prominent politicians including former prime minister Toure had been beaten.

- Close race -

Provisional overall results are due no later than Friday, but initial indications sugget the poll was close and that the main opposition coalition had gained ground, particularly in urban areas, according to local media.

The single round of voting will decide the 165 seats of the single-chamber parliament -- currently controlled by the president's supporters -- for the next five years.

Sall has promised to appoint a prime minister -- a position he abolished and then restored in December 2021 -- from the winning camp.

Some seven million Senegalese were eligible to vote in the election, which passed without any major incidents.

Turnout at several polling stations appeared relatively low, according to AFP correspondents and observers, and the interior ministry said the participation rate was 47 percent.

Yahya Sall, a retired soldier, said he hoped the new parliament "will have a strong opposition presence... to advance democracy".

Lawmakers are elected according to a system that combines proportional representation, with national lists for 53 lawmakers and majority voting in the country's departments for 97 others.

The diaspora elects the remaining 15 members of parliament.

The vote took place against a backdrop of rising prices, partly because of the Ukraine war.

The opposition has questioned the priorities of the government, which has highlighted its subsidies for oil products and food as well as infrastructure building.

Sall, 60, was elected in 2012 for seven years then re-elected in 2019 for another five. He has been accused of wanting to break the two-term limit and run again in 2024.

He has remained vague on the subject, but any defeat of his supporters in Sunday's vote could upset such plans.

The 21-day election campaign passed in a mostly calm atmosphere.

The pre-campaign period, however, was marked by violent demonstrations that left at least three people dead after several members of the main opposition coalition, including Sonko, were banned from taking part.

On June 29, the opposition eased tensions by agreeing to take part in the elections, which it had threatened to boycott.

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