Senegalese vote in Presidential elections

Senegalese voters headed to the polls Sunday for an election President Macky Sall is expected to win after strong economic growth in his first term, although rights groups criticize him for squeezing out rivals.

Senegal’s small fish-exporting economy expanded more than 6 percent last year, one of the highest rates in Africa, driven by an ambitious reform and development plan that included the construction of a new railway.

The 57-year-old told thousands gathered for his final rally in Dakar on Friday that he would deliver universal health care and better access to education in a second term.

Results due next month.

About 6.5 million people are registered to vote at polling stations that opened at 8 a.m. (0800 GMT) and close at 6 p.m. Official results are due Friday with a run-off for the top two March 24 if no one secures a majority.

After casting his vote in the president’s hometown of Fatick, pensioner Adama Sakho, 81, said he believed Sall would win in the first round, praising his social spending policies.

“I’m retired, and now in one month I receive the same amount of money I used to make in three months,” he said. “He has the hand of God. Everything he touches gets realized. And he brings luck, because it’s during his reign that we found oil and gas.”

There are hopes of an oil and gas boom in Senegal as energy majors develop previously untapped fields off its Atlantic coast.

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