Senegal wraps up an election campaign Friday marred by deadly protests against President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term in office, which have upset its peaceful reputation.
One of Africa's democratic success stories, the continent's westernmost state is facing its most tumultuous polls since independence after weeks of riots over the 85-year-old leader's efforts to cling to power left six dead.
More than 100 women began a march in the capital in the afternoon declaring "no to a third mandate" shortly before Wade was due to adress a final rally in Dakar.
Amnesty International added its voice to concern from abroad saying it was "worried about the threat of violence" and urged candidates to keep their supporters calm.
Faced with calls by some opposition members for the vote to be delayed, Wade asked the youths in his party to keep a close eye over the polling on Sunday to prevent the opposition from "sabotaging the election."
"Supporters, especially the youths, protect my ballots because they are yours ... stay in the polling station until counting starts to phone me and tell me of our victory," he said during a rally on Thursday, according to the national news agency APS.
The June 23 Movement (M23) opposition grouping called for another protest in downtown Dakar, defying a ban in a now familiar pattern which has sparked near-daily clashes between police and protesters in the past week and a half.
M23 warned Thursday that the election could not be transparent, free, or peaceful in a "rapidly worsening security climate."
The movement raised questions about the impartiality of electoral bodies, especially the constitutional council which validated Wade's candidacy for a third term in the face of opposition protests that it was illegal.
However while some wanted the poll postponed, other candidates such as former prime minister Macky Sall, urged his supporters to "beat Wade at the ballot box."
Despite having served two terms in office, a limit he himself introduced, Wade says later changes to the constitution extending term lengths to seven years allow him to serve two more mandates.
Wade has remained defiant in the storm of criticism, calling the opposition protests "temper tantrums" and saying he will not be dictated to by "toubabs", westerners in the local Wolof language.
Wade was first elected in 2000, to great euphoria as he unseated the Socialist Party from 40 years in office.
However growing social anger over unemployment and crippling power cuts which spilled into the streets last year heightened tensions with government, reaching breaking point when Wade announced his plans to run again.
Wade says he needs more time in office to finish his "Grand Projects", but he is accused of seeking to line up his son Karim Wade to succeed him, a move which has incensed the opposition.
Observers say Wade needs to secure a first-round victory while the field is still wide open as he would fare badly in a two-horse race.
"Given the ambiguous configuration of the run-off, the final outcome of the electoral process is highly uncertain at this stage," he said, adding the opposition's ability to defeat the president will depend on whether it can firmly unity behind one candidate in the second tour.
Elections minister Gueye says some 469,122 people of the nation's 5.3 million voters had yet to collect their voter cards.
Source: AFP Global Edition