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Senegal: President gets election win, rivals won't challenge

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FILE - In this Sunday Feb. 24, 2019 file photo Senegal's incumbent President Macky Sall casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Fatick, Senegal. Senegal's electoral commission says that President Macky Sall has won a second term in office with more than 58 percent of the vote. It was not immediately clear if the top opposition candidates would accept the results announced Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo, File)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegalese President Macky Sall easily won re-election to a second term during a first round of voting, election officials announced Thursday. His opponents issued a joint statement saying they would not challenge the results.

The statement from the four opposition candidates ended days of political uncertainty in Senegal, a democracy long known for peaceful transfers of power.

After the prime minister told ruling party supporters that unofficial results showed Sall winning 57 percent of Sunday's vote, top opponents dismissed the claim and told supporters to prepare for a runoff election.

Election observers reported finding no major irregularities during the presidential vote. In their joint statement, the opposition candidates said they still rejected the election's outcome, but added, "We will not be taking any recourse at the constitutional council."

The tally was announced on live TV and radio, a rarity in a part of the world where postelection violence is common in many countries. There were scattered reports of protests, including by university students in Dakar.

Police said some protesters hit a gas station in Thies, and officers intervened. But no as before police put down the unrest. But there were no large demonstrations after Sall was declared the election's winner.

"President Macky finished first in 12 of Senegal's 14 regions," former Prime Minister Aminata Toure told her fellow Sall supporters outside the party's headquarters in the capital of Dakar. "The gap between him and the other candidates is big."

The incumbent received 58.3 percent of the vote, according to Judge Demba Kandji, president of the commission tasked with releasing the election results. Provisional results showed that top opposition candidate Idrissa Seck took 20.5 percent of the vote, while Ousmane Sonko had 15.7 percent.

The 57-year-old Sall campaigned on his record of building roads and creating jobs, calling himself "the builder of modern Senegal." The president maintains he created some 491,000 jobs during his first term.

Opposition supporters maintained that Sall's economic accomplishments still had not reached many citizens of a country where young men often risk their lives migrating to Europe in search of better prospects.

"Macky Sall is obsessed with infrastructure and he's not concerned with employment, with employing my generation," said Abdou Camara, 24, a Seck supporter who is applying to graduate school in Canada after trying to find a job for six months. "I don't hate Macky Sall, but I can't love him."

Senegal has long been a democratic example in West Africa, where leaders clinging to power and new governments taking power through coups once were all too common

However, the presidential race this year brought allegations that the presidency effectively blocked two prominent opposition politicians from taking part, Dakar's former mayor and the son of the president Sall defeated in 2012.

During the campaign that resulted in his first term, Sall promoted a message of change to beat longtime President Abdoulaye Wade. A constitutional referendum since then has shortened the presidential term from seven years to five.

After the change, Sall weathered some criticism by deciding to complete a seven-year term.

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Associated Press writer Amelia Nierenberg contributed to this report.

FILE - In this Sunday Feb. 24, 2019 file photo Senegal's incumbent President Macky Sall casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Fatick, Senegal. Senegal's electoral commission says that President Macky Sall has won a second term in office with more than 58 percent of the vote. It was not immediately clear if the top opposition candidates would accept the results announced Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Sunday Feb. 24, 2019 file photo Senegal's incumbent President Macky Sall casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Fatick, Senegal. Senegal's electoral commission says that President Macky Sall has won a second term in office with more than 58 percent of the vote. It was not immediately clear if the top opposition candidates would accept the results announced Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo, File)