Mali goes to polls in crucial election runoff

Mali goes to polls in crucial election runoff

Malians vote in a crucial election runoff on Sunday that has been marred by allegations of fraud and a tense security situation in the vast West African country.

It is holding a second election after the 24 candidates who competed for the top seat failed to get more than the required 50 percent of votes in the first round last month.

Voting goes from 08:00 GMT to 18:00 GMT. Turnout was low in the first round at about 40 percent.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who won 41 percent of the vote in July’s poll, is favoured to beat Soumaila Cisse, who garnered 18 percent, even though violence has surged during his tenure.

Sunday’s vote is a rerun of a 2013 face-off that Keita won by a landslide over Mali’s former finance minister Cisse.

It is the first time in Mali’s history that an incumbent president has had to face a runoff. More than nine million people registered to take part in the election.

July’s poll was marred by armed attacks and other security incidents that disrupted about one-fifth of polling places – or 644 stations – and the threat of violence could again dampen turnout on Sunday.

Military deployed

Officials in the capital, Bamako, said security will be tightened for the second round, with 20 percent more soldiers on duty.

This means 36,000 Malian troops will be deployed, 6,000 more than two weeks earlier, with a particular focus on the Mopti region in the centre of the country, where voting stations had been closed, Cheick Oumar, an aide in the prime minister’s office, told AFP news agency on Saturday.

Outside Mali, the hope is the election winner will strengthen a 2015 accord that the fragile Sahel state sees as its foundation for peace.

The deal brought together government officials, government-allied groups, and former Tuareg rebels.

But a state of emergency heads into its fourth year in November.

Violence has spread from the north to the centre and south of the vast country and spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts.

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