Senegal ruling party sweeps boycotted poll

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DAKAR, June 7 (Reuters) Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's ruling coalition increased its hefty parliamentary majority in weekend polls, but turnout slumped after an opposition boycott, results announced today showed.

The three biggest opposition groups were among 10 parties that boycotted Sunday's vote in protest at alleged cheating when Wade was re-elected in February, tarnishing the image of a country held up as a model of democracy in turbulent Africa.

Turnout plunged below 35 per cent - less than half the more than 70 per cent recorded in the February presidential election which returned Wade to a second term in office with 56 per cent.

The Sopi coalition led by Wade's Democratic Party (PDS) took 131 seats in the enlarged 150-member National Assembly, up from 89 of 120 seats in the previous parliament, provisional results announced by the Appeals Court showed.

Twelve minor parties won between one and three seats each.

Leading opposition parties had urged voters to shun Sunday's ballot in protest over what they called Wade's autocratic rule.

The boycott weakened Senegal's credentials as a democratic role-model after nearly half a century of independent rule without a coup -- a record almost unheard of in Africa.

Among those boycotting the vote was the Socialist Party which ruled Senegal from independence from France in 1960 until veteran opposition leader Wade won 2000 elections, earning international praise for a democratic transfer of power.

Wade has promised to revive a sluggish economy and create jobs through massive public works schemes, but young Senegalese have been leaving by the thousand on treacherous voyages in open fishing boats to seek new lives and work in Europe.


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