Vote count under way in Senegal's tightly contested presidential election

Vote counting got under way Sunday in Senegal's presidential election pitching continuity against radical change following several years of unrest and a political crisis.

The winner will be tasked with steering Senegal, viewed as a beacon of democracy in coup-hit West Africa, out of its recent troubles and managing revenues from oil and gas reserves that are shortly to start production.

Official results are not expected before the end of the week.

Two favourites have emerged among the 17 candidates who include a sole woman: the governing coalition's former prime minister Amadou Ba and anti-establishment candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

Both were once tax inspectors but Ba, 62, now stands for continuity while the 43-year-old Faye promises profound change and left-wing pan-Africanism.

Both have also pitched themselves as the best candidate for young people in a country where half the population is under 20.

Read moreSenegal’s presidential election: A look at the four main candidates

"I voted for Diomaye without thinking," said Diaraaf Gaye, a 26-year-old shopkeeper.

"It's time for the country to start on a new footing with young people" in power.

But 23-year-old Ndeye Penda Faye, a housekeeper, said she was pinning her hopes on the government's candidate.

"(President) Macky Sall has done a lot of work and that's why I'm going to vote for Amadou Ba, to continue the work," she said.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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