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Senegalese president now expects to face runoff after having predicted a crushing victory
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) ' Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade says he now expects to face a runoff in the West African nation's presidential election.
After days in which he predicted he would win with a "crushing majority," Wade appeared subdued Monday. He said with votes counted in 282 out of 551 districts, he was leading with 32.17 percent of the vote against 13 opposition candidates.
Most experts say to stay in power, the 85-year-old Wade needed to win on the first round when the opposition was divided. In the runoff his chances are far slimmer because he will be facing a united opposition.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) ' As votes were being tallied on Monday from Senegal's presidential election, leading opposition candidate Macky Sall declared that no candidate had gotten the necessary 50 percent, making a runoff "inevitable."
Sall told the country's private radios that he had won both the capital and several major towns in the interior. However, he said neither he nor the country's 85-year-old president who is seeking a third term had gotten the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Many experts say that for Wade to remain in power he needed to win on the first round when the opposition was split between 13 candidates. In a runoff, his chances of winning are much slimmer because the opposition will be united.
Wade said multiple times in the days leading up to the vote that he expected to win on the first round with "a crushing majority," language that his party has continued to repeat. He was loudly booed when he came to his home precinct to vote, forcing his bodyguards to spirit him away before he could give his customary post-vote press conference.
Opposition leader Sall put the ruling party on notice, saying that continuing to assert that Wade would win outright is indication that the ruling party plans to rig the vote.
"To hear them talk of victory on the first round is inadmissible," Sall said in a speech carried on RFM radio shortly after 2 a.m. Monday. "It's unacceptable that the leaders of the regime are trying to take advantage of the fact that our brave people are sleeping ... to try to concoct results that exist only in their own imaginations. I put them on notice," he said.
This nation of over 12 million on Africa's western coast is considered one of the oldest and most robust democracies on the continent. For weeks leading up to the vote, daily life was upended by violent protests calling for Wade to step down. Analysts have warned of unrest if Wade were to win the election, and the specter of further violence has eroded the image of a nation that has been held up as a model of stability, and the exception in a volatile region of the world.
Results from individual polling stations in the capital indicated that no candidate had gotten the necessary majority, but there were no official nationwide figures available as of early Monday.
Amadou Sall, the president's campaign spokesman, warned that it was too early to draw any conclusions saying that only 5 percent of results had been tallied so far.
"At the moment we are dealing with results that are spread out and isolated and that do not allow us to draw any conclusions," he told the state-run news agency overnight on Monday.
Asked if the elderly president would accept to step down were he to lose the election, Sall said: "He has said since the beginning that he will submit himself to the constitutional council, to the verdict of the vote. He has said, 'If I am defeated, I will congratulate the winner.'"
A former opposition leader, Wade spent 25 years from 1974 to 2000 trying to topple the socialist party that ruled Senegal for 40 years after the country's independence from France in 1960. His victory in 2000 was met with euphoria and was held up as an example of Senegal's democratic maturity, because the former president gracefully accepted his loss.
Famously, ex-President Abdou Diouf telephoned Wade to concede defeat, an American-style gesture that was unheard of in Africa at the time.
Despite his age and criticism from the international community, Wade has insisted on running for a third term. Many wonder if he will step down as gracefully as his predecessor, should he lose the election.
Associated Press writer Sadibou Marone in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.