Count begins in Senegal's landmark vote to decide next president

Voters in Senegal cast their ballots for a new president on Sunday, with early reports suggesting high turnout. Seventeen candidates were vying to replace incumbent Macky Sall, who has led the country since 2012 and is not eligible to run again.

Some 7.3 million voters are registered in the West African country, which has often been hailed as one of the most stable democracies in a region that experienced several coups in recent years.

The election will choose the nation's fifth president since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960. It is the first time in the country's history that the incumbent is not on the ballot.

Voting began at 8am local time and ended at 6pm, with counting starting immediately afterwards. Provisional results are expected within five days.

Polling stations opened on time and voting proceeded calmly throughout the day, reported RFI's correspondents in Dakar, Saint-Louis and Ziguinchor.

Record number of contenders

With a record 17 candidates in the running, a second round looks likely.

Two favourites have emerged: former prime minister Amadou Ba, the ruling party candidate, and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, representing a popular anti-establishment coalition.

Ba is President Sall's preferred successor, while Faye is running in place of opposition figurehead Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running over a conviction that he disputes.

By Sunday afternoon, the head of the EU mission, Malin Bjork, said that voting was taking place "calmly, efficiently and (in a) very orderly manner".

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