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Take the money and vote, song tells Senegalese

March 10, 2012

DAKAR, March 10 — Hard-up Senegalese who are offered cash for their vote in a presidential election this month have an easy option, according to a popular music video: they should simply pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway.

Poll officials say attempts to buy votes, often made before election day and well away from scrutiny, are common in African elections but among the hardest forms of vote-rigging to spot.

Incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, who failed to get an absolute majority in last month’s first-round vote, now faces ex-premier Macky Sall in a tough March 25 run-off in the West African country which prides itself on its stable democracy.

Senegalese singer Youssou N’dour shakes hands with opposition leader Macky Sall (right) during a news conference in central Dakar March 1, 2012. — Reuters picSenegalese singer Youssou N’dour shakes hands with opposition leader Macky Sall (right) during a news conference in central Dakar March 1, 2012. — Reuters pic“If a politician offers you 5,000 CFA francs (RM30), take them, if he offers you rice, take it,” sings veteran musician Ousmane “Ouza” Diallo in “Le Vote”.

“But if he asks to buy your elector’s card, say no,” he warns, referring to the document which voters must present to polling officials before they can cast their ballot.

Reuters reporters heard anecdotes from voters in February’s first round that men wielding suitcases of cash offered money in return for their elector’s card — a tactic used in the bastions of rival candidates to limit their scores.

The EU election observer mission also cited suspicions of such a practice.

‘Think of the future’

Seeking to bribe someone outright to cast their vote favourably is less certain of success because if procedures are properly respected, voters cast their ballot in secret.

“That’s why I say in the song, take as much as you like ... it’s all taxpayers’ money anyway,” Diallo told Reuters. “But when you are in the booth, think of the people, think of the future of the country more than the money they are giving you.”

Wade, 85, emerged in the lead after the first round with 34.8 per cent of the vote against 26.6 per cent for Sall.

The vote passed off peacefully after at least six died in pre-election protests over Wade’s decision to stand for a third term, which critics say breaches a two-term limit in the constitution.

Poverty and mass unemployment remain the two main grievances against Wade, who first came to power in 2000. He argues he has done more in 12 years than rival Socialists did in the 40 years they ruled since 1960 independence from France.

Sall, who like his one-time mentor Wade is an economic liberal, has secured a number of endorsements from defeated candidates but it is not clear to what extent they will persuade supporters to back him.

Wade this week solicited major religious leaders in the predominantly Muslim country to pray for his victory. But the so-called “marabouts” did not give a public endorsement of him.

Sall is also expected to pay visits to them next week. — Reuters

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