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Mali's presidential election heads to a runoff

August 02, 2013|By Robyn Dixon
  • Mali's former prime minister, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, waves to supporters at a stadium in Bamako Jan. 14, 2013. He will face former Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse in a presidential runoff Aug. 11.
Mali's former prime minister, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, waves to supporters… (Habibou Kouyate / AFP/ Getty…)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Two former government officials will take part in a presidential runoff election in Mali after a first round of voting in which no candidate won an outright majority, according to provisional results announced Friday.

The election is an attempt to usher in stability and peace after a military coup and rebellion saw half the country fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-linked militias last year.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 69, will face former Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse, 63, in the Aug. 11 vote.

Keita, known as IBK, won just over 39% of the vote Sunday, compared with 19% for Cisse. More than 51% of registered voters took part, a very high turnout by Malian standards.

The provisional results must be confirmed by the constitutional court before the runoff can go ahead.

There had been suggestions in recent days that Keita could be declared the winner after the first round, which probably would have caused some tension. Cisse's supporters said that there was widespread election fraud and indicated they would not accept the result if there was no runoff.

After more than two dozen candidates took part in the first round, Keita and Cisse will probably be looking to make deals with the losers, offering jobs and favors in return for support in the next round.

Sunday's election was peaceful despite threats by an Al Qaeda-linked militia, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.

France, fearing a terrorist base in its backyard, sent in forces in January, driving the militias out of main cities and towns, destroying mountain hideouts and killing several important regional Al Qaeda bosses, including an Algerian known as Abu Zeid.

With France about to withdraw its forces, U.N. peacekeeping troops are due to take over in an effort to ensure that Al Qaeda doesn't regain a foothold in the vast West African country of 15 million, much of which is desert.


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