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Run-Off In Mali Presidential Election Set For Aug. 12

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A run-off vote has been set for Aug. 12 in Mali after neither incumbent Ibrahim Keita nor his arch-rival Soumaila Cisse managed to muster a majority in the first round of a tense but peaceful presidential poll.

Keita took 41.4 per cent of the vote in the first round against 17.8 per cent, for Cisse, the minister for territorial administration, Mohamed Erlaf, announced in the capital Bamako late Thursday.

Many of the eight million eligible voters cast their ballots on July 29 in spite of a volatile security situation in the country’s north and centre, where various Islamist and separatist groups regularly stage attacks.

Isolated security incidents, however, prevented voting in 105 of the West African nation’s 23,000 polling stations, the ministry of territorial administration said.

Keita’s popularity has plummeted since his election in 2013, but the 73-year-old has a good chance of winning a second five-year term in the run-off: No sitting president has ever lost an election in the former French colony.

Armed assailants shut down 644 polling stations on July 29, representing about three per cent of the total.

About a fifth were troubled by violence, figures from the Ministry of Territorial Administration showed.

The European Union mission to observe the election said there were irregularities, including in the distribution of electoral cards.

That fueled doubts about the election’s credibility and worries that it did not fully reflect the will of Malians, large numbers of whom are spread across a vast desert where jihadists with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State roam.

Islamist militants took over the north in 2012 on the back of a Tuareg rebellion, imposing Sharia law until French troops intervened a year later to push them back. Militants have since regained territory and influence, making many scared to come out and vote.

Growth has averaged five per cent under Keita, and Mali’s key exports of gold and cotton have flourished, as have agricultural staples such as rice, but security has worsened, especially in the lead up to the vote.

In June, a suicide bomber drove a vehicle laden with explosives into the headquarters of the regional G5 Sahel anti-terrorist force in Severe, central Mali, killing three people.

The UN peacekeeping mission to Mali has suffered some 170 deaths, more than 100 by “malicious acts.”

Human rights groups have raised the alarm over alleged executions by security forces.

The Defence Ministry promised to investigate.

In spite of the political turbulence, Malians have this week kept up a tradition in the country of not taking to the streets in violent protest during elections, and the capital Bamako was calm on Thursday evening.

 



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