Senegal's Sall seeks to bolster rule in polls
DAKAR (Reuters) - Party allies of Senegal's new president Macky Sall are tipped to win control of parliament in polls on Sunday, which would help him push on with much-needed economic reforms.
Sall won against veteran leader Abdoulaye Wade in a vote three months ago seen as a success for African democracy.
Victory for Sall's own Alliance for the Republic (APR) party and the Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition backing him would help the new president, 50, with his drive to boost employment and cut the cost of living for the poor, notably through food subsidies.
"I think the pro-Macky Sall coalition should win as he took the presidential election with 65 percent and there has not been enough time since then for him to be caught up by people's expectations," local analyst Djiby Diakhate said.
Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) said patience was wearing thin with Sall in a country where the average income is around $3 a day and people endure frequent power cuts, poor roads and weak social services.
"There is already disappointment because people thought things would change quickly," said senior PDS member Amadou Sall, who is no relation to the president.
"His grace period lasted no longer than a rose," he said.
No reliable figures exist for joblessness, but formal employment remains a rarity in much of the country, particularly among youths. Aside from phosphate exports, much of the economy is based on farming and fishing.
Voting started at 0800 GMT to elect 150 parliamentarians, 90 through direct suffrage while 60 will be chosen from national party lists. About 5 million of the West African nation's 13 million population are eligible to vote.
"I have come to vote to give a majority to the president's coalition so as to enable him to carry out his policies," said Alain Diedhiou, 40, after voting in Dakar.
"I want that tomorrow he will not have any excuse to give me or explain why he is not carrying out reforms or implementing his policies. That is the reason for my vote today," Diedhiou said.
March's presidential election was dominated by a controversy over whether Wade, who ruled since 2000, had the right to seek a third term. There were violent protests ahead of the first round but the run-off was peaceful and Wade conceded defeat quickly.
While Sall's victory sparked euphoric scenes in the capital Dakar in March, there has been little enthusiasm for the legislative election and turnout is expected to be modest. For the first time, a number of local Islamic leaders are standing.
By mid-morning, turnout was still low at some of the voting station visited by Reuters reporters.
"I have noticed that there is a lack of enthusiasm. There are very little numbers of people at the polling stations," said Saleh, a businessman, after voting in downtown Dakar. "The solution for me would be to jointly organise legislative and presidential elections at the same time".
Samir Gadio, analyst at London-based Standard Bank, said a Sall victory would give a small boost for Senegal's Eurobond, currently yielding around seven percent, but said nerves over the global economy would limit any gains.
The task ahead for Sall remains immense. Public finances are on shaky ground with a budget deficit equal to 8 percent of gross domestic product, Sall revealed this week, and breakdowns in electricity supplies continue to hold the economy back.
Yet Sall said he expects to halve the deficit to four percent by 2014 at the latest, partly by reining in what he called the excessive government apparatus created by Wade.
Investigations into Wade-era corruption have already led to police summons for a number of officials, including former interior minister Ousmane Ngom.
(Writing by Mark John and Bate Felix; Editing by Diana Abdallah)
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