Senegal’s ejection of 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade at the polls Sunday is a resounding victory for African democracy. The loss ended his attempts to cling to power for a third term and establish a dynastic succession. According to the Senegalese press agency, Wade telephoned his rival, 50-year-old former Prime Minister Macky Sall, Sunday evening to concede defeat. Official results are expected later this week. ”We have shown to the world that our democracy is mature,” a victorious Sall told supporters. “I will be the president of all the Senegalese.” Wade’s campaign seemed to agree the election had reinvigorated Senegalese democracy. “It is the whole country that has just won,” Amadou Sall, a spokesman for Wade, told Reuters. “This is a big moment for democracy and President Abdoulaye Wade has respected the voice of the people.”
Wade sparked violent protests last year in what is normally a beacon of stability and order in West Africa when he tried to change the constitution to enable him to stay in power, and then again this year when he ran for a third term in spite of a law limiting Presidents to two. Outrage at Wade’s actions and his apparent grooming of his son Karim to succeed him spread far beyond the normal bounds of politics, drawing in civil society, academics, students and even pop stars — notably a Senegalese rap duo Keur Gui, who formed a vocal demonstration movement called Y’en ai Marre (which translates as “I’ve had enough”) and Africa’s most famous living musician Youssou N’Dour, who also took to the streets of the capital, Dakar. In the way of autocrats, Wade responded by deploying riot police equipped with tear gas, batons, plastic bullets and even live rounds. A handful of protesters were killed in several pitched street battles.