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Polls open in Senegal’s tightly contested presidential election

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Polls opened in Senegal on Sunday morning in a tightly contested presidential race that followed months of uncertainty and unrest that has tested the West African nation’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region that experienced a wave of coups in recent years.

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The roads were largely deserted early in the morning in Senegal’s capital and the nation’s elite police force were stationed all over the city in armoured vehicles. Outside polling centers, police checked voters cards as men and women in formal dress lined up.

The election is being held weeks after President Macky Sall unsuccessfully tried to call it off until the end of the year. Sall is barred from running for a third term due to constitutional term limits. As a result, the vote is taking place during Ramadan, the holy month when observant Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Read moreHow Senegal’s presidential election was postponed, reinstated and moved up

The election is set to be the nation’s fourth democratic transfer of power since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960. The process has been marred by violence and unrest, and hundreds of opposition protesters have been arrested and jailed.

There are 17 candidates in the race, including one woman, the highest number in the nation’s history.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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