Senegal’s President Macky Sall won in the first round of the election Sunday, his prime minister said, although his two main challengers look set to contest the outcome.
“The results allow us to say that we should congratulate President Macky Sall on his re-election,” Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne said at midnight, predicting the incumbent would receive “at least 57 percent” of the vote.
His announcement hours after polls closed was greeted with cheers from supporters gathered at the headquarters of the presidential coalition in Dakar. Sall, who was seen there earlier in the evening, did not speak.
Official results from each region are not expected until Tuesday with a nationwide announcement by Friday midnight at the latest. If no one wins more than 50 percent a second-round runoff will be held on March 24.
Shortly before Dionne’s announcement, Sall’s two main challengers had warned against premature proclamations of victory.
“At this stage, a second round is announced and the results that are already compiled allow us to say so,” said former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who was making his third run for president.
“At the current state of the vote count, no candidate, I say no candidate, including myself, can claim to have won the presidential election,” taxman-turned MP Ousmane Sonko, who was also in the race, added at their joint press conference.
Seck and Sonko are the only two candidates seen as having a chance of making it to a second round, with incumbent Sall, 56, in the lead in many polling stations, according to preliminary results reported in the evening by local media.
The other challengers, former foreign minister Madicke Niang and Issa Sall of the Unity and Assembly Party (PUR), were trailing far behind, according to the results.
Macky Sall had looked set to cruise to victory in the first round after his two key rivals, popular former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, son of the previous president, were banned from running over graft convictions and he only faced four lesser-known candidates.
“At the end of this day, the Senegalese people alone will be the winner. And the president has chosen will equally have to be president of all Senegalese,” Sall said after voting Sunday.
A geologist by training, Sall took over as president in 2012 after beating his former mentor Abdoulaye Wade, and this time, he has campaigned for a second term championing his “Emerging Senegal” infrastructure project to boost economic growth.
“Victory in the first round is indisputable,” Sall told a recent Dakar campaign rally.
The EU observation mission said its overall assessment was “quite positive” among the polling stations it observed.
“There has been very little violence, very isolated incidents, which is very good news,” said Elena Valenciano, head of the mission.
A smaller lineup
Often held up as a model of stability in Africa, Senegal has enjoyed strong growth. The Muslim-majority country has largely escaped the jihadist attacks that destabilised neighbours such as Mali.
Sall has made transport infrastructure a priority. But basic services, healthcare, and education often remain inadequate, sometimes triggering strikes and protests.
The other four candidates have campaigned hard against his plans for the second phase of his project, which critics see as a potential debt burden.
The five-horse race leaves voters with a limited choice compared to 2012 when 14 candidates vied for the top post.
A new system approved by parliament last year requires candidates demonstrate support from a minimum number of citizens and regions.
Once the regulations went into force, only seven candidates made the cut, but two of them — Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade — were then disqualified.
Both men were barred over their convictions for misuse of public funds, which they say were engineered to bar them from the race.
Their supporters staged a number of protests and last year, Amnesty International issued a report highlighting the “unfair trials” of senior opposition figures, flagging a “lack of (judicial) independence” in the case against Khalifa Sall.
Senegal has a population of 16 million but only 6.7 million were registered to vote in the West African nation which gained independence from France in 1960.
Senegal has known two peaceful power transfers in 2000 and 2012 and has never experienced any coups. But election campaigns are often marred by charges of corruption, disinformation and sometimes violence.
For polling day, some 8,000 police were deployed throughout urban areas alongside an unspecified number of civilian security staff, officials said.
And around 5,000 observers — including some from the European Union — were monitoring proceedings, the interior ministry said.
As millions of Nigerians packed the polls on Saturday for the presidential and National Assembly elections, the candidates in the race and major political stakeholders and statesmen also pushed their cause forward by voting.
Here are photos of major candidates, political stakeholders and other prominent Nigerians voting:
The leadership of the Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN), has appealed to all Christians in the country and those in the Diaspora to pray for Nigeria ahead of Saturday’s rescheduled general elections.
In a statement by its President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, CAN directed its members to begin a Prayer Programme from Tuesday, February 19, 2019, and end on Sunday, February 24, 2019, for the success of the rescheduled elections.
He described the current political scene in the country as not being ordinary, adding that there was the need for the Church to intercede for the country.
“I want you to pray very well this week against some evil forces that are plotting against the election. If it’s about the things we see in the spirit, I am not sure that elections will hold at all.
“We should rise up and ask for a transparent, free, fair and credible election that will even be better than those of 2015,” the CAN president pleaded.
He urged Christians to prevail on God not to allow the elections to result in war or bring hardship and suffering unto the citizens, and there would not be a further postponement of the polls.
“It is our prayers that this will be the last time INEC will toy with any postponement again. It is reprehensible, unacceptable, condemnable, ungodly and a national embarrassment and never again will Nigeria be subjected to this kind of rude shock of international proportion.
Among other prayer points, the CAN president also asked that prayers be offered for the deliverance of Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped by terrorists from her school, Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Adamawa State on the night of February 19, 2018.
Nigeria made final preparations Friday on the eve of a presidential election, with candidates pitting continuity against reform in a battle between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, his main rival Atiku Abubakar and over 70 others.
Buhari, the 76-year-old leader of Africa’s most populous nation was elected in 2015 on a wave of hope he could defeat Boko Haram Islamists, tackle rampant corruption and boost the economy.
But he faces a stiff challenge from former vice-president Abubakar, 72, amid fears about widening insecurity, claims of creeping authoritarianism, and economic incompetence.
A total of 73 candidates are on the ballot for Saturday — the sixth election in 20 years since Nigeria returned to democracy after decades of military rule.
Buhari, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are considered the main contenders.
Campaigning ended Thursday with final rallies in Buhari’s home state of Katsina, in the northwest, and Abubakar’s native Adamawa, in the northeast.
A record 84,004,084 people are registered to vote.
Also up for grabs are 360 seats in the lower House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate.
Nearly 120,000 polling units are set to open at 0700 GMT and close at 1600 GMT.
No date has been given for the results, but an announcement is expected from early next week.
Electors face a choice between two elderly candidates who have both been part of the political elite for decades and do not mirror the country’s increasingly young demographic.
Just over half the registered voters are aged 18-35.
Chief among the criticisms against Buhari is security, with signs of a resurgence of Boko Haram in Nigeria’s remote northeast and new conflicts elsewhere.
His anti-corruption campaign has been described as one-sided against political opponents.
Economic growth picked up last year after a recession in 2016 but remains sluggish. The cost of living is high in a country where most of the 190 million people live in poverty despite billions earned from oil.
Abubakar, 72, bills himself as a dynamic, modern, pro-business leader. But the former vice-president faces allegations about links to corruption.
Buhari said in a televised address Thursday that reelection would give him the chance to fulfil his initial promises and complete vital infrastructure projects.
“It is a choice between going back or keeping the momentum of change,” he said
For his part, Abubakar pitched himself as “the ticket to development and advancement” and cautioned voters against four more years of “misdirection and maladministration”.
“There is no best candidate among them,” said Aliyu Jibrilla, a 70-year-old retired teacher in the Adamawa state capital, Yola, adding: “intellectually… they’re not up to it”.
“It’s about time these old people go,” added Modibbo Sadiq, a 23-year-old university graduate.
Security and fraud
Security is a constant threat in Nigeria, after previous outbreaks of deadly election-linked violence.
As a precaution, all vehicles have been ordered off the roads from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm Saturday.
Nigeria’s police chief Mohammed Adamu said the restrictions were designed to prevent “hoodlums and criminally-minded elements from hijacking and disrupting the electoral process”.
With reinforced police and military presence on the streets Friday, the interior ministry announced that land borders will shut for 48 hours from midday.
Candidates have pledged to conduct peaceful elections and to accept the results, but there have been clashes in the southern state of Rivers.
APC candidates have been prevented from running in the parliamentary and governorship elections in Rivers because of a dispute over their selection.
Vote-rigging has marred previous Nigerian elections, and this year concerns have been raised both the APC and PDP may have sought to buy votes.
Red flags also went up after voter cards were distributed late, or not at all, and three fires in 12 days Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices.
Ahmad Ado Hasan, 21, a tailor and first-time voter in the northern city of Kano, said: “As a citizen, you should vote your choice, not sell your vote.
“God has already destined the winner, we are only to confirm through our votes. So, vote buying is not the answer.”
A group of retired Army Generals, Admirals, Marshals and former Military Governors/Administrators have endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office.
The ex-officers made their declaration in support for Buhari’s re-election when they paid a visit to the President in Abuja on Monday.
The leader of the delegation, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa, who was military governor in Borno, and later military administrator of Lagos State, said the retired top officers thought it right to visit the President.
Gen Marwa said the visit was to tell President Buhari that he has represented his constituency well.
He said, “You announced a simple three-point agenda upon the assumption of office namely security; fighting corruption, and the economy. You have kept your words as an officer and a gentleman.”
“We the retired armed forces officers, representing 99.9% of our colleagues say that we are proud of you; proud to be associated with your administration; and proud to witness this era of Nigeria rising again under your able leadership.
“We support you fully and totally in the presidential elections next week and will do whatever we can within the law to contribute to your emergence as the victor in the election in order to take Nigeria to the next level,” Gen Marwa
The most senior of the retired officers, Vice Admiral Jubrila Ayinla, a former Chief of Naval Staff, who said future generations would acquit President Buhari “most creditably”.
He added: “On behalf of the generals here today, I congratulate you on the tremendous work done by this administration, and wish to state unequivocally that we are proud of you and fully behind you in the presidential elections next week. We pledge our full support and continued loyalty.”
The delegation was made of one Vice Admiral, two Lt-Generals, 15 Major Generals, two Rear Admirals, eight Air Vice-Marshals, 12 Brigadier-Generals, three Commodores, nine Air Commodores, and 17 former military governors/administrators, among others.
On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated his commitment to the country, saying that his objective is clear and he will continue to do his best as the President of the country.
The President said, “God has made this country great. We have human and material resources, and may God continue to give us the right leaders. My objective is very clear, and I will continue to do my best.
“We have no other country but Nigeria. We will stay here and salvage it together”.
President Buhari noted that even if one was blessed enough to send children for training abroad, “after such training, they will still have to come back here. We must, therefore, give our best for our country.”
“The patriotism imbued in us by the military will ever remain relevant. Let’s do our best for this country,” he said.
The Nigeria Police Force Wednesday said it has set up a Special Election Investigation Team to look into all electoral offences, evens as the polls draw closer.
ACP Frank Mba, police spokesman made this know Wednesday while appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
Mba said the Special Election Investigation Team (SEIT) is just an Adhoc investigation team.
“Its mandate is a very narrow mandate, it’s going to be focused exclusively on electoral offences, offences that we anticipate may be committed in the run up to the elections, during the elections or post the elections,” Mba noted.
He further informed that the SEIT will be disbanded as soon as the elections are over.
DR Congo’s top court said it will give its verdict Saturday on the final election results which have been challenged both internationally and at home, spurning an appeal from the African Union to suspend the announcement.
The Constitutional Court is urgently hearing an appeal over the outcome of the December 30 vote to choose a successor to long-serving President Joseph Kabila, with runner-up Martin Fayulu claiming he was cheated of victory — an assertion repeated elsewhere.
“It (the ruling) will take place today at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT),” Constitutional Court spokesman Baudouin Mwehu told AFP.
Hundreds of supporters of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, the declared winner of the election, gathered outside the court holding placards saying “No to interference” and “Independent country” as riot police stood nearby.
On January 10, the electoral commission said Tshisekedi had provisionally won with 38.57 percent of the vote against Fayulu’s 34.8 per cent.
But Fayulu denounced the figures as an “electoral coup” forged by Tshisekedi and Kabila and filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court.
‘Not their business’
At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders said there were “serious doubts” about the vote’s provisional results and called for the announcement of the final results to be suspended.
But DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende had snubbed the AU demand saying: “I don’t think it is the business of the government or even of the African Union to tell the court what it should do.”
The AU also announced that its commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, currently the AU chairman, were expected to fly to DR Congo on Monday.
The European Union said it joined the AU in inviting “all the Congolese players to work constructively with this (AU) delegation to find a post-electoral solution which respects the Congolese people’s vote”.
The court is due to give a ruling ahead of the scheduled swearing-in of the next president on Tuesday.
The Financial Times and other foreign media have reported seeing documents that confirm Fayulu as the winner.
“If the court declares Tshisekedi victor, the risk of isolation would be enormous and untenable for a country positioned right in the middle of the continent,” Adeline Van Houtte of the Economist Intelligence Unit wrote on Twitter.
Fayulu’s camp had hailed the AU appeal for the final result to be put on hold, but Tshisekedi’s entourage branded it “scandalous.”
The dispute has raised fears that the political crisis that began when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional term in office two years ago, could turn into a bloodbath.
The vast and chronically unstable country lived through two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003, and the previous two elections, in 2006 and 2011, were marred by bloody clashes.
The AU has taken the firmest line of all major international bodies with regard to the post-election crisis.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a bloc that includes Angola and South Africa, initially called for a recount and a unity government.
But in a later communique, it made no mention of those demands, instead calling on Congolese politicians to “address any electoral grievances in line with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws”.
Kagame’s visit as part of the AU delegation could complicate matters, analysts say.
Rwanda backed the 1997 ouster of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko by Kabila’s father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, but then changed allies. Sporadic clashes occurred last year on the border between the two neighbours.
President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted Thursday that he paid a man in 2015 to rig online opinion polls to favor Trump as he began running for the presidency.
Cohen confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that in early 2015 he paid the head of a small technology firm, John Gauger, to write computer script that would place multiple votes for Trump in an online poll of news broadcaster CNBC.
They repeated the effort in an online poll of website Drudge Report, which is popular with conservatives.
Cohen, who also paid Gauger to create a social media account to promote himself, confirmed the main elements of the Journal story.
“What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it,” he wrote on Twitter.
Cohen, who was the real estate billionaire’s right-hand-man and fixer at the Trump Organization in New York at the time, pleaded guilty last year to charges that he violated campaign finance laws by arranging hush payments ahead of the 2016 election to women who claimed credibly to have had extramarital affairs with Trump.
Cohen implicated Trump in that crime, saying he directed the payments.
The New York lawyer, 52, was sentenced to three months in jail for the campaign finance violation and other charges.
But his incarceration has been delayed while he provides support to ongoing investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia and Trump’s finances.
He is scheduled to testify to the newly Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee on February 7 on his work for Trump.
The Journal report said Gauger, who is chief information officer at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Virginia, was paid over $12,000 in cash for the job, allegedly less than the $50,000 he was promised.
Cohen disputed that, insisting that Gauger was paid by check.
Malawi’s ex-president Joyce Banda, who recently returned home after four years of self-imposed exile, was on Thursday reelected as her People’s Party’s PP) to lead it into next year’s national elections.
As political parties readied for next year’s elections, 1,800 PP delegates from around the country converged in the commercial capital of Blantyre to give Banda the mandate to attempt to wrestle power from President Peter Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to whom she lost the 2014 elections.
Banda garnered 1,183 party votes against her little-known opponent Leonard Mphidza who polled 23 votes.
In her victory speech, Banda said she is geared up to lead the party she founded to the polls.
“I accept the task you have placed in my hands and I am grateful for the faith you have placed in me,” she told the assembled party delegates.
“I am ready to work hard because the mandate has come from you. I am more rejuvenated because poverty has become worse since the PP left office,” she added.
Banda laid out her manifesto, promising to restore electricity, education standards, to build a mining industry, to restore the fledging economy, provide affordable housing to the poorest and to provide health care for all.
“It is our right to get proper treatment,” she said.
Malawi, one of the world’s poorest and most aid-dependent countries, will hold presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in May 2019.
Banda, 68, fled the country in 2014 when she lost power after being embroiled in the multimillion dollar so-called “Cashgate” scandal, the biggest financial misconduct by government officials uncovered in the country’s history.
She returned to Malawi in April after four years of self-imposed exile, despite facing the threat of arrest over corruption allegations.
Banda, who served as Malawi’s first female president from 2012 to 2014, says she has done nothing wrong and that the allegations against her are politically motivated.
She founded the PP in 2011 after splitting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is led by President Mutharika.