DAKAR (Reuters) - A coalition backing new Senegalese President Macky Sall was poised to win majority seats in parliament, according to provisional results reported by local media on Sunday after legislative elections in the west African country.
Early counts reported by Senegal’s APS news agency showed that Sall’s Alliance for the Republic party (APR) and the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition were leading in several constituencies across the country.
Results on APS’s website showed that the leading coalition had won the vote in several major districts including Thies, Kaolack, St. Louis and the capital Dakar.
Complete provisional results are expected by Tuesday.
The victory could enable Sall, 50, who won a presidential election against veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade in March, push on with much-needed economic reforms to boost employment and cut the cost of living for the poor, notably through food subsidies.
Voters in Senegal went to the polls to elect 150 parliamentarians, 90 through direct suffrage while 60 will be chosen from national party lists. About 5 million of the West African nation’s 13 million population were eligible to vote.
Alain Diedhiou, 40, said he voted to give a majority to the president’s coalition to enable him to carry out his policies.
“I want that tomorrow he will not have any excuse to give me or explain why he is not carrying out reforms or implementing his policies. That is the reason for my vote today,” Diedhiou said after voting in Dakar.
Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) said patience was wearing thin with Sall in a country where the average income is around $3 a day and people endure frequent power cuts, poor roads and weak social services.
“There is already disappointment because people thought things would change quickly,” said senior PDS member Amadou Sall, who is no relation to the president.
“His grace period lasted no longer than a rose,” he said.
No reliable figures exist for joblessness, but formal employment remains a rarity in much of the country, particularly among the young. Aside from phosphate exports, much of the economy is based on farming and fishing.
March’s presidential election was dominated by a controversy over whether Wade, who ruled since 2000, had the right to seek a third term. There were violent protests before the first round but the run-off was peaceful and Wade conceded defeat quickly.
While Sall’s victory sparked euphoric scenes in the capital Dakar in March, there was little enthusiasm for the legislative election and turnout is expected to be modest. For the first time, a number of local Islamic leaders are standing.
No official figure for voter turnout has been released. Turnout appeared low at some of the voting stations.
“I have noticed that there is a lack of enthusiasm. There are very little numbers of people at the polling stations,” said Saleh, a businessman, after voting in Dakar. “The solution for me would be to jointly organize legislative and presidential elections at the same time.”
Samir Gadio, an analyst at London-based Standard Bank, said a Sall victory would give a small boost for Senegal’s Eurobond, currently yielding around 7 percent, but said nerves over the global economy would limit any gains.
The task ahead for Sall remains immense. Public finances are on shaky ground with a budget deficit equal to 8 percent of gross domestic product, Sall revealed this week, and breakdowns in electricity supplies continue to hold the economy back.
Yet Sall said he expects to halve the deficit to 4 percent by 2014 at the latest, partly by reining in what he called the excessive government apparatus created by Wade.
Writing by Mark John and Bate Felix; Editing by Diana Abdallah and Robin Pomeroy