|Senegal's Wade stages mass rally for re-election bid||
DAKAR (Reuters) - A rally in support of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade drew thousands to the capital Dakar on Saturday, hours after a smaller protest by opponents who say his bid for a third term in February's election is illegal.
Backers of the 85-year-old president's poll bid put the turnout in the hundreds of thousands for the pro-Wade rally, which comes a month to the day after violent anti-Wade protests rocked this poor but usually peaceful West African state.
Dozens of buses queued to drop off Senegalese from across the country at the event, with many carrying banners reading "Wade for 2012" and "Hope of the Nation".
Local frustrations have been stoked by power cuts, high living costs and stubbornly low employment rates, but Wade points to achievements in developing infrastructure such as roads and high budget spend on education.
"Our party showed today that it has a level of support unrivalled by any other party in Senegal," Wade told the crowd outside the headquarters of his ruling PDS.
Ndagua Sylla from the town of Thiaroye near Dakar was among several in the crowd who told Reuters their bus fare had been paid by local officials of Wade's party and that they had been promised a small handout to cover their expenses for the day.
One of the few countries in the region to have regularly seen power change hands by the ballot box, Senegal has come to be a regional hub for United Nations, non-governmental agencies and some multinationals.
It priced a $500 million bond in May with a yield of 9.125 percent and its telecom operator Sonatel is a hot favorite of many emerging market investors.
The event was the first major rally by Wade's PDS party since June 23 riots against a proposed law that would have allowed him to claim victory in the February poll with 25 percent of the vote. Wade quickly backed down from the law.
While the anti-Wade protests have been nowhere near the scale of "Arab Spring" uprisings that ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, they have since galvanised a movement whose rallying call is now that Wade should not even stand for the poll.
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