Day After Killer Blast and Rebel Ambush, Diouf Set To Win Third Term
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ Abdou Diouf appeared on the verge of winning his third term as Senegal president today, a day after a land mine blast killed 22 party supporters who were traveling in a bus to a voting station.
Separatist rebels attacked a bus and killed six people Saturday, including two off-duty soldiers.
Diouf, 57, has been president of this West African country since 1981 and was widely expected to win despite economic problems and a campaign by separatists seeking autonomy for the Diola people. They have stepped up attacks in recent months after the collapse of a 1991 cease-fire with the government.
Seven candidates were running against Diouf. His main rival was Abdoulaye Wade, a 66-year-old lawyer and economist who was running for the fourth time.
About half of the registered voters cast ballots throughout this country of 7.4 million people except in southern Casamance, where the bus attacks occurred and less than 30 percent participated, according to initial estimates.
Projections from a majority of voting stations indicated Diouf was winning with more than 55 percent of votes.
Perennial candidate Wade appeared to have won the most votes in the capital, Dakar.
Initial results were to be announced today, but officials said they might not be ready before Tuesday.
A candidate would win with 40 percent of the overall votes, which were being cast under new election laws designed to prevent fraud. Dozens of international monitors observed the balloting.
Senegal’s agricultural-based economy is saddled with a $3.1 billion foreign debt, high unemployment and drought. But Diouf faced a fractured opposition, and his control of state news plus support from Muslim leaders gave him a strong power base.
His Socialist Party has ruled since independence from France in 1960.
Diouf succeeded retired President Leopold Senghor in 1981.