Polls have closed in Senegal after the Presidential elections took place, with an estimated 6.5 million registered voters.
Vote counting is underway at polling stations, with official results expected on Friday, and a run-off for the top two candidates to take place on March 24 if no one secures a majority.
This morning voters lined up from as early as 6am to cast their vote, with polls opening from 8am to 6pm.
Despite earlier reports of violence in campaign related incidents, the elections unfolded without any reported unrest or disruptions.
“Senegalese people are peace loving people, it is a very big democracy,” said Cherif Kandji, a Supervisor for the Presidential Elections with Senegal’s electoral commission, CENA.
“People know their rights, they are very aware, so there is nobody who can use them to create any violence as they know what benefits them,” he added.
Incumbent President Macky Sall, who is running for a second term against four other candidates, is widely tipped to carry the day.
Two of Senegal’s most popular opposition leaders – Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade – who were seen as main challengers, were barred from running in the election.
After he cast his vote today in his hometown of Fatick, President Sall called on Senegal’s people to undertake their civic duty of voting peacefully.“I urge you to do your civic duty in peace and serenity to decide what we will do with the next five years,’‘ president Sall said in a tweet posted on his official account.
“It is time for Senegal to turn the page,” Presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko said after casting his ballot.
“I hope that tonight this page will be turned. We hope that we will be the winner of this election but if it isn’t the case, and if the election is conducted with transparency, I will congratulate the winner. But if the election is not transparent, without doubt, we will contest it, because the meaning of an election is democracy, transparency and freedom.”
With the voting process done and dusted, it is clear that there are many hopes pinned onto the next President, particularly among Senegal’s youth.
Unemployment is a significant issue in the country, and with 65 percent of Senegal’s population under the age of 25, there is hope that whoever takes the day, can create job opportunities and pave the way for a more positive future for young people in the country.
“We want the winner to make sure there is an independent justice system in the country,” said Mouhamadoul Hamdy, a student at Dakar’s Cheick Anta Diop university. “We need many projects to recruit youth, bring down youth unemployment in the country, and help people to live a meaningful life.”