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Senegal polls 'a lesson for African leaders'

27 March 2012, 12:16

Dakar - Former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo said on Monday that Senegal's election, in which incumbent Abdoulaye Wade accepted defeat gracefully, was an example all African leaders should follow.

"We hope that what has happened in Senegal will be emulated in other countries in Africa," said Obasanjo, who is leading an African Union election observer mission.

"When it became obvious the game was up, [Wade] took his telephone and congratulated his counterpart. That's something other leaders in Africa can learn from."

After a tumultuous first round of voting marked by riots over Wade's candidacy for a third term which the opposition denounced as unconstitutional, Obasanjo said his team had noticed "tremendous" improvements in the election.

While the vote reflected the will of the people, his team said voter turnout still appeared low after a 51% showing in the February 26 poll, although final figures are not yet out.

The first round had been rocked by violent protests over Wade's candidacy and Obasanjo made a proposal which bewildered many on the eve of the vote, suggesting Wade serve another two years in office in a bid to appease both sides.

A month later, however, opposition candidate Macky Sall ousted Wade at the ballot box, showing "democracy is alive and going from strength to strength ... in this country", Obasanjo said.

"We can all learn the right lesson from this. If an election anywhere in Africa is conducted as it should be, the result will be acceptable to all those involved."

He said the election was also a lesson to leaders who try to cling to power.

"Whatever may be the will, the desire, the manipulation of any leader, in a democracy the will of the people will prevail and there is still no substitute for democracy."



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