Pro-government camp claims victory in Senegal referendum

Dakar (AFP) - The pro-government "Yes" camp claimed a sweeping victory in Senegal's constitutional referendum on Monday, following a controversial vote widely seen as a test of the president's popularity.

Turnout was reportedly low Sunday in the vote on several constitutional reforms, including on cutting the presidential term from seven to five years.

"The results that we've seen, from our grassroots committees combined with those from the press, show a strong trend from the referendum towards a clear 'Yes' victory, across the country," said El Hadji Momar Samb, a senior figure in the "Yes" camp, at a Monday press conference.

Opposition parties and several civil society groups had urged Senegalese to vote "No", saying Sall has reneged on a promise to leave office early and criticising the referendum as a cop-out.

The pro-government side claimed to have won in 43 of Senegal's 45 administrative departments, with a strong showing in the northwestern city of Saint Louis.

On Monday morning, the front page of the pro-establishment "Le Soleil" had already proclaimed "The people say yes to Macky Sall," referring to the president, while the independent "La Tribune" cried "'Yes' snatch it".

The press compiled results from provisional figures recorded on Sunday night, also handing victory to the "Yes" camp.

Sall was elected in 2012 saying he would reduce the presidential mandate from seven years to five.

He originally campaigned as an alternative to ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, who was seeking an unpopular third stint in power.

Since then, Sall has said his hands are tied by the country's constitutional court which rejected his proposal to cut his own term, meaning he himself will still serve the full seven years.

The referendum's official results will be published on Friday by the country's electoral commission and require constitutional court approval.