Algeria Sink Senegal To Claim Second Africa Cup Of Nations

 

Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

“It’s incredible. The win is for the whole country,” Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi told beIN Sports. “We have to thank (coach) Djamel Belmadi. The situation was tricky in the past before he arrived.”

“It’s a bit hard to soak in right now but I think we’ll realise what we’ve done when we return home,” he added.

For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.

“We conceded the goal very early and on the whole I think we deserved to equalise but it didn’t happen,” said Cisse.

“I want to congratulate my players. We’ve been working together a long time for this Cup of Nations and we wanted it but tonight it didn’t go our way.”

READ ALSO: Super Eagles Return To Nigeria After 2019 AFCON Campaign

It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.

“Without the players I am nothing. They are the main ones. I suppose the staff played its part in guiding the players but they applied the instructions incredibly well,” said Belmadi.

With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

Gomis finally beaten

Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.

As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.

It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.

Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch M’Bolhi out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.

Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.

Niang rounded an advancing M’Bolhi after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.

The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.

Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.

AFP

Sane Replaces Banned Koulibaly For Cup Of Nations Final

 

 

Salif Sane returned in Senegal’s defence alongside Cheikhou Kouyate for Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Algeria in Cairo with Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly suspended.

Sane partnered Koulibaly in Senegal’s opening game of the tournament but lost his place to captain Kouyate following an ankle injury in the 2-0 win over Tanzania.

Ismaila Sarr was also recalled after he was used off the bench in the semi-final victory over Tunisia, with Krepin Diatta the player to make way as Senegal attempt to lift the trophy for the first time.

Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi stuck with the same team that overcame Nigeria 2-1 to reach their first final since winning the tournament as hosts in 1990.

Starting line-ups for Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final between Senegal and Algeria at Cairo International Stadium (kick-off 1900 GMT):

Senegal (4-3-3)

Alfred Gomis; Lamine Gassama, Cheikhou Kouyate (capt), Salif Sane, Youssouf Sabaly; Idrissa Gueye, Badou Ndiaye, Henri Saivet; Ismaila Sarr, Sadio Mane, Mbaye Niang

Coach: Aliou Cisse (SEN)

Algeria (4-4-2)

Rais Mbolhi; Mehdi Zeffane, Aissa Mandi, Djamel Benlamri, Ramy Bensebaini; Adlene Guedioura, Sofiane Feghouli, Ismael Bennacer, Riyad Mahrez (capt); Youcef Belaili, Baghdad Bounedjah

Coach: Djamel Belmadi (ALG)

Referee: Alioum Alioum (CMR)

Senegal Beat Benin 1-0, Advance To Semi Final

 

Senegal reached the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals for the first time since 2006 when Idrissa Gueye scored to deliver a 1-0 last-eight win over Benin in Cairo Wednesday.

Everton midfielder Gueye struck on 70 minutes, side-footing the ball into the net from close range after being set up by Liverpool star Sadio Mane.

READ ALSO: AFCON: Tunisia Goalkeeper Apologises For Action During Ghana Clash

This was the first Cup of Nations match to use the VAR (video assistant referee) system and there were no controversial incidents.

Benin were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages when Olivier Verdon was given a straight red card for a last-defender foul.

AFP

Mane Fires Senegal Past Uganda To AFCON Quarter-Finals

Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane shoots a penalty kick during the match between Uganda and Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium in the Egyptian capital on July 5, 2019. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Sadio Mane became the leading scorer in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Friday when he scored the goal that gave Senegal a 1-0 win over Uganda in a feisty last-16 clash.

The Liverpool star struck on 15 minutes with a close-range shot after a passing move carved open the Ugandan defence in Cairo.

Mane later missed a penalty — the second time he has fluffed a spot-kick in as many matches — but his three-goal tally from three matches moved him ahead of 11 scorers with two each.

In the quarter-finals, Senegal will face fellow west Africans Benin, who stunned Morocco earlier, winning a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw following extra time.

A fiery start at the Cairo International Stadium to the second last-16 match saw two Ugandans and one Senegalese yellow-carded within 10 minutes of the kick-off.

Uganda captain and goalkeeper Denis Onyango was first to be booked after racing off his line and fouling Ismaila Sarr, who needed lengthy treatment.

Giant Uganda forward Emmanuel Okwi was the next offender with his elbow brushing the face of Senegal centre-back and captain Cheikhou Kouyate.

Senegal midfielder Papa Ndiaye then went into the book of the referee for deliberately pushing a Ugandan so hard he tumbled off the pitch.

As tempers cooled, Senegal scored through Mane, who shared the Premier League Golden Boot last season with Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal.

A Ugandan pass was intercepted and two quick, slick passes sent Mane clear to fire left-footed past Onyango, one of the top goalkeepers in Africa.

Blatant foul

On 18 minutes, Uganda lost centre-back Hassan Wasswa after he injured his left hamstring and Timothy Awany took his place.

Midfielder Khalid Aucho became the third Ugandan to be yellow-carded, for a blatant foul, and Okwi was lucky to escape a second caution and a red card later in the half.

There were more cards than goal attempts on target in the opening 45 minutes, which ended with Senegal comfortably retaining a one-goal advantage.

The match not only lacked goalmouth excitement, but also atmosphere with a crowd of just a few thousand dotted around the 75,000 stadium, where the final will be played on July 19.

Scorching heat, costly tickets and a lack of interest by Egyptians in teams other than their own Pharaohs are some of the reasons for the poor attendances.

Senegal had a great chance to double their lead when Mane was fouled by Onyango, but the Liverpool star failed to convert the penalty, a fate he also suffered against Kenya.

He aimed for the right corner, but Onyango guessed correctly and made a brilliant two-hand save to keep the Cranes in the match.

Senegal centre-back and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly was the fifth player to be booked as an intensely physical encounter entered the final quarter.

As free-kicks were continually conceded, Uganda had several opportunities to equalise and came close on 80 minutes when goalkeeper Alfred Gomis pushed away an Allan Kateregga effort.

AFP

AFCON 2019: Senegal ‘Keeper Mendy Out For A Month With Hand Injury

 

Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will be sidelined for a month with a hand fracture sustained at the Africa Cup of Nations, his club Reims announced.

Mendy, 27, left Egypt on Tuesday to return to France for treatment on a broken left finger suffered during the warm-up ahead of Senegal’s 3-0 victory over Kenya in their final group game.

He was replaced in goal by Alfred Gomis of Italian club SPAL. Mendy’s injury comes as a big blow to a fancied Senegal side looking to win the Cup of Nations for the first time.

They face Uganda in the last 16 in Cairo on Friday, while Reims will hope to have Mendy back fit for the start of the Ligue 1 season against Marseille on August 10.

AFP

Mane Misses Penalty, Scores Twice As Senegal Qualify

Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane (3rd-R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group C football match between Kenya and Senegal at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 1, 2019. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Liverpool star Sadio Mane scored twice after having a penalty saved as Senegal defeated Kenya 3-0 in Cairo Monday to book an Africa Cup of Nations last-16 place.  

The Champions League-winning forward had a timidly-struck first-half penalty saved by Patrick Matasi before making amends with a brace after a goalless opening 45 minutes.

Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead on 63 minutes and Mane netted on 71 and 78 minutes, his second goal coming from another penalty.

Kenya were reduced to 10 men before the second penalty was taken with Philemon Otieno sent off for a second yellow card.

READ ALSO: Rabiot Completes Juventus Move

Algeria made 11 changes to the team that beat Senegal last week and still beat Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo to top Group C with nine points.

Senegal were runners-up with six points, Kenya third with three and Tanzania, back at the tournament after 39 years, ended pointlessly.

The qualification of Senegal raised to 10 the number of teams who have secured places in the second round, which kicks off Friday.

Hosts Egypt, surprise side Madagascar, Algeria and Morocco advanced as group winners and Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal and the Ivory Coast as runners-up.

Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo have filled two of the spots reserved for the best four third-place teams.

The remaining six places will be filled Tuesday by the Group E and F winners and runners-up, and two more third-place nations with Kenya and South Africa among the contenders.

With Algeria having qualified and Tanzania eliminated before the final group matches, the focus was on the battle for second place between Senegal and Kenya.

 War of words 

A war of words between the coaches preceded the game with France-born Kenya handler Sebastien Migne suggesting Senegal lacked the mental strength to become African champions.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse responded by reminding Migne that his side were ranked 82 places higher in the world and the loss to Algeria was the first in four years in Africa.

Kenya were lucky to reach half-time level with Senegal at the June 30 Stadium as apart from the Mane miss, captain Victor Wanyama was not punished for handling in the box.

Patrick Matasi also made two great saves, blocking an Idrissa Gueye close-range shot and tipping a Sarr header over via the top of the crossbar.

Kenya came close to snatching the lead against the run of play just past the hour when a Dennis Omino snap shot was brilliantly parried by Alfred Gomis.

A minute later and Senegal were ahead as Matasi fell while trying to clear a cross and Sarr turned to fire superbly into the corner of the net.

Mane atoned for his penalty flop by adding a second on 71 minutes, taking advantage of poor defending from Mohamed Musa off a long ball to run through and score.

Given a second penalty, Mane made no mistake, tucking the ball into the corner despite a brave attempt by the outstanding Matasi to stop it.

At the Al Salam Stadium, Tanzania contained Algeria for 35 minutes before conceding three goals by half-time with Islam Slimani opening the scoring before Adam Ounas added two.

President Sall’s Brother Resigns Following Corruption Charges

Senegalese President Macky Sall.                                                                                  SEYLLOU / AFP

 

Senegalese President Macky Sall’s brother on Monday resigned as head of a state-run savings deposit after he was named in a BBC report on apparent mismanagement of national gas resources.

The BBC report broadcast earlier this month has caused an outcry in the poor West African country by suggesting a gas deal signed with BP had deprived the state of badly needed energy income.

The report says a company run by Sall’s younger brother Aliou Sall had been secretly paid a bonus in 2014 by the gas company that sold its shares in two Senegal gasfields to BP.

READ ALSO: Suspected Mastermind Of Ethiopia Attacks Shot Dead – Report

Aliou Sall had denied allegations in the report warning he would file suit against the BBC. BP has also rejected the report.

The president’s brother on Monday said he was stepping down as head of the Caisse des Depots et Consignations or CDC fund he has directed since September 2017.

“I hereby notify you of my decision to step down,” Aliou Sall said. “This unfortunate controversy is based only on untruths.”

President Sall has himself called the accusations an attempt to destabilise a country trying to make the most of its natural resources.

In 2012, then newly-elected president Sall confirmed a decision taken by his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade to award exploitation rights for two offshore oil and gas fields to the Timis Corporation, controlled by an Australian-Romanian businessman, Frank Timis.

The BBC, in its report broadcast on its Panorama and Africa Eye programmes, said that two years later Timis Corporation secretly paid a “bonus” of $250,000 (222,000 euros) to Agritrans, a company controlled by Aliou Sall.

The president’s brother had already stepped down in October 2016 from his post in the Timis group after facing criticism of a possible conflict of interest.

Pressure has intensified on Sall since the report with protests from opponents and civil society to demand “transparency” in contracts related to the exploitation of gas and oil.

AFP

Senegal Lose Sane For Rest Of Africa Cup Group Stage

Senegal’s defender Salif Sane vies for the ball with Tanzania’s midfielder Simon Msuva during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Senegal and Tanzania at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo on June 23, 2019. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Giant Senegalese defender Salif Sane will miss at least his team’s next two Africa Cup of Nations matches after hurting his ankle in the 2-0 victory over Tanzania.

The 6ft 5in (1.96m) centre-back injured his left ankle during Sunday’s Group C opener in Cairo and will miss “between 10 and 15 days” with a sprained ligament, the Senegalese FA said Monday.

READ ALSO: Rafael Benitez To Leave Newcastle

Sane, who was expected to partner Napoli standout Kalidou Koulibaly in a strong Senegalese defence, will miss Thursday’s heavyweight clash with Algeria as well as the July 1 meeting with Kenya.

Senegal will, however, be boosted by the return of star forward Sadio Mane, who was suspended for the opener after picking up a one-match ban during qualifying.

Koulibaly, reportedly coveted by a number of Europe’s top sides, said Sunday he wasn’t prepared to talk about his Napoli future with Senegal attempting to win the tournament for the first time.

“I’m not talking about my future, I would rather talk about Senegal. We know that Senegal want to do something great,” said Koulibaly.

“I’m 200% with Senegal, I’m 200% with 15 million Senegalese. So today I’m relaxed, I’m going to play my AFCON and then go back to Naples, and we’ll see what happens.”

AFP

Buhari To Attend Senegalese President’s Inauguration

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to depart Abuja for Dakar, the capital of Senegal later today to attend the inauguration of President Macky Sall who will be sworn-in for a second term in office.

According to a statement released by Presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, Buhari, who is the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be the special guest of honour at the ceremonies which will be attended by other African leaders at the Diamniadio exhibition centre on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Onnoghen To Open Defence At CCT Today

“On the invitation of his host, President Buhari, who is ECOWAS Chairman, will be Special Guest of Honour at the ceremonies to be attended by other African leaders at the Diamniadio Exhibition Centre on Tuesday.”

President Buhari will be accompanied by governors Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi state, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa states.

Other government officials on the presidential entourage include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retired); and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai.

The President is expected back in the country at the end of the inauguration ceremony.

Senegal To Release Presidential Election Result On Thursday

Two men look at newspaper front pages hung on a rope in Fann Hock neighbourhood, in Dakar, on February 25, 2019, one day after Senegal’s presidential elections.  SEYLLOU / AFP

 

The results of Senegal’s presidential election will be released Thursday, a source at the official body handling the count said.

The provisional results will be released at 11:00 am (1100 GMT), the source at the National Vote Counting Commission, known as CNRV, said Wednesday, confirming a report by the Senegalese Press Agency (APS).

Since Tuesday, the CNRV, led by a magistrate, has been examining the tallies sent to the 45 departmental committees across the country and the count for Senegalese voting abroad.

Media reports Tuesday based on tallies of the regional results — with 90 percent of votes counted — suggested that President Macky Sall was poised to return to power after Sunday’s election.

READ ALSO: Algeria Students Protest Against President Bouteflika Fifth Term

According to those figures, Sall was set to win without needing a second-round run-off because he was already comfortably over the 50-percent total required for a definitive, first-round victory.

His nearest rival was former prime minister Idrissa Seck, according to the media reports.

A number of the other presidential candidates have insisted that a second-round run-off would be inevitable.

The head of the European Union observer group said Tuesday that while the vote had been “calm and transparent” it had taken place “in a climate characterised by a lack of trust and blocked dialogue”.

A source close to the interior ministry said that turnout was higher than 66 percent.

AFP

Senegal President Sall Wins Re-Election In First Round

Incumbent President Macky Sall speaks after casting his vote for Senegal’s presidential elections at a polling station in Fatick on February 24, 2019.  SEYLLOU / AFP

 

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.

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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.

AFP

Senegal Votes With President Sall Confident Of First-Round Win

People queue as they wait to cast their ballot for Senegal’s presidential elections outside a polling station in Thies on February 24, 2019.  MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Senegal went to the polls Sunday in an election that incumbent President Macky Sall is tipped to win after his main challengers were banned from running.

His two biggest rivals in the first-round vote in the West African nation — popular former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, the son of the previous president — were disqualified after corruption convictions in trials questioned by rights groups.

People queued in large numbers as the polling station opened at Fatick in the centre of the country, where Sall, 56, cast his ballot, as well as at Thies in the west, AFP reporters said.

But the start of voting was delayed at Grand-Yoff, the stronghold of Khalifa Sall.

“I want to get home as soon as possible, I’m frightened there will be violence on election day,” said 25-year-old voter Fatoumata Sall.

“I hope this election goes off peacefully and that tomorrow everyone will be going about their business — that will mean a peaceful vote,” said accountant Lamine Diatta after he cast his ballot in Dakar.

READ ALSO: Former Head Of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar Calls For Peace Ahead Of Results

President Sall, a former geologist who first took the presidency in 2012 after beating his former political mentor Wade, campaigned for a second term pitching his “Emerging Senegal” infrastructure project to boost economic growth.

“Victory in the first round is indisputable,” Sall told a recent Dakar campaign rally, seeking to emulate all three of his predecessors by landing a second term — Abdoulaye Wade needed just one round in 2007 to secure his second term.

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 made infrastructure a priority, including a new airport, motorways and a rail link. But basic services, healthcare and education often remain inadequate, sometimes triggering strikes and protests.

Sall faces competition from four lesser-known rivals who campaigned hard against his plans for the second phase of his project, which critics see as a waste of taxpayers’ money and a potential debt burden.

His rivals are former prime minister Idrissa Seck, Issa Sall of the Unity and Assembly Party (PUR), former justice and foreign minister Madicke Niang and tax inspector-turned MP Ousman Sonko.

The five-horse race leaves voters with a limited choice compared to 2012 when 14 candidates vied for the top post, and 2007 when 15 battled it out for the presidency.

Preliminary results were expected soon after polling closes at 1800 GMT on Sunday, but will only become official a day or two later.

Some 6.7 million in a population of around 16 million are registered to vote in a country which gained independence from France in 1960.

‘Lack of independence’ 

A candidate must get more than 50 percent to prevent a second-round runoff.

If no one wins more than half the ballots, a second vote is provisionally scheduled for March 24. The exact timing will be determined by how long it takes to officially proclaim the first-round results, and whether there is a challenge.

A new system approved by parliament last year despite opposition party challenges requires candidates to demonstrate they have the support of a minimum number of citizens and regions.

Once the new regulations were applied, only seven candidates made the cut, two of whom were then disqualified. Both Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade have claimed their criminal convictions were engineered to rule them out of the race.

Supporters of the convicted men staged demonstrations, while rights group Amnesty International spotlighted “unfair trials” in Senegal and a “lack of independence” by the judiciary in Khalifa Sall’s case.

Senegal has known two peaceful power transfers in 2000 and 2012, and no coups. But election campaigns are often marred by charges of corruption, disinformation and sometimes violence.

Recent clashes between supporters of rival parties left two dead at Tambacounda, 420 kilometers (260 miles) east of the capital.

Authorities also reinforced security and legislation, sometimes at the cost of freedom, according to rights groups.

Officials said 8,000 police were on duty in urban areas alongside an undetermined number of civilian security staff. The interior ministry said some 5,000 observers — including 900 from abroad — were monitoring proceedings.

Opposition rallies have recently been banned and pre-trial detention for people suspected of “terrorism” extended from 48 hours to 12 days.

AFP