Thousands of people are celebrating in the streets of Dakar after preliminary results showed Senegalese opposition candidate Macky Sall has won over Abdoulaye Wade, the incumbent president who sought a third term in office.
Sall supporters gathered in the streets of the capital on Monday, chanting, dancing and sounding car horns.
Outside Sall’s party headquarters people danced to music blaring from powerful speakers, and revellers shouted: “Macky president”, “This time we have it”, “We have won”.
Wade conceded election defeat and congratulated Sall, as preliminary results gave an overwhelming lead to his runoff rival.
“My dear compatriots, at the end of the second round of the vote… the current results indicate that Macky Sall has won,” Wade said in a statement.
Amadou Sall, a spokesman for Wade, told the Reuters news agency: “It is the whole country that has just won … This is a big moment for democracy and President Abdoulaye Wade has respected the voice of the people.”
“The real winner remains the Senegalese people,” said Sall, a former prime minister who served for years under Wade.
“We have shown to the world that our democracy is mature. I will be the president of all the Senegalese.”
Thijs Berman, with the EU election observer mission in Senegal, told Al Jazeera: “It is the Senegalese people, who by the ballot boxes, by their own voting, said no to all the violence, said no to all the rumours of vote rigging of fraud.
“All these rumours are without any content if you look at the result.”
Wade conceded defeat
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Dakar, said: “A lot of people could not envisage Abdoulaye Wade ever standing down. He was going for a controversial third term, insisting the constitution could be changed against the will of many many people. He really misjudged the electorate of Senegal it would seem.
“But within an hour of the polls closing we were told by a special adviser to the presidency that if it is a defeat he will do the honourable thing and make a phone call to his opposition candidate and basically concede defeat.
Andrew Simmons reports from Dakar
“Then, within an hour-and-a-half that phone call was made and people were already on the streets celebrating,” Simmons said.
The congratulatory phone call to Sall, at 21:30GMT on Sunday, alleviated fears that Wade, 85, would attempt to stay in office by challenging the runoff results.
It was seen as bolstering the West African state’s democratic credentials in a region fraught with political chaos.
Official results of the vote are not expected until Tuesday or Wednesday, but celebrations started just hours after the polls closed and results started filtering over the radio waves, Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa reported from Dakar.
“With Sall winning so many polling stations across the country, people in Dakar emerged to the streets to rejoice,” Essa said.
Dakar resident Rama Diop, 39, told Al Jazeera it was “like a dream come true to hear that Macky has topped the lists, [both] inside and outside the country”.
Souleymane Sankhare, 22, said he was “glad” Sall was going to take over.
“Wade has done some good work, but if a country shows you that they do no longer need you, you should leave. People depend on Macky Sall and this is why they support him,” he said.
Polling stations closed after a largely peaceful electoral exercise on Sunday that attracted more than five million voters, with local reports suggesting a high turnout.
As votes were tallied, state media released initial results which showed Sall far ahead of Wade by a ratio of at least 2:1 in the overwhelming majority of polling stations.
The outgoing president was even roundly beaten in his home constituency in the suburb of Point-E.
Sall had reportedly also won the vote in the biggest suburbs Pikine and Guediawaye among other areas of the city.
Wade, who first took office in 2000, has seen his popularity suffer amid soaring costs of living and unemployment in this country on Africa’s western coast.
Opposition activists had said Wade’s quest for a third term was unconstitutional and some voters viewed him as yet another example of a long-serving African leader seeking to hang onto power.
His decision to seek re-election had infuriated many voters, and intense protests erupted that left at least six people dead.
Analysts had warned of further unrest if Wade won.
Aly Fary Ndieye, a Senegalese political analyst told Al Jazeera on Sunday: “[Voters] have chosen someone who has a very clear record… and good candidate.
“We have never seen a president elected with this kind of landslide victory [in Senegal]. It gives a lot of political capital [to Sall]. The question now is how will Macky Sall turn this win into political power.
“The biggest challenge now is how to effectively implement policies to benefit Senegalese people,” he said.