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Africa

Malians vote in second round presidential run-off

media Malians lining up to vote in the presidential election second round run-off. Reuters/Joe Penney

Polling stations have opened across Mali as nearly seven million voters choose who will be the country’s next president. They will choose between former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and former finance minister Soumaila Cissé.

Keita, or IBK as he’s better known, is seen as the favourite. He won 39 percent of the vote in the first round earlier this month, while Cissé won 19 percent. The pair face today’s run-off because none of the 27 first round candidates won enough votes to win outright.

The two men have faced off before, losing the 2002 presidential election to Amadou Toumani Touré, who was overthrown by a military junta in March last year as he was preparing to end his final term in office.

Many polling stations opened on schedule at 0800 Universal Time. Malian expatriates overseas, including a sizable community in Paris, are also voting.

The new president will be tasked with jump-starting the economy and fixing state institutions that have suffered from 16 months of turmoil following a coup, a subsequent Islamist insurgency, and a French military operation to end the insurgency.

Campaigning for the second round lasted only around two days. Cheikh Oumar Diarrah, a special advisor to IBK and a former Mali ambassador to the United States, conceded this may need to be changed in the future.

But despite this, he said his camp is confident of victory.

“We have the arithmetic [numbers] with us. We came first with about 40 percent. We have 20 candidates who have decided to support him in the second round, and we are very confident. We have done a good campaign, and Malians seem to be in favour with [sic] him, so we are very confident.”

Madou Diallo, the president of the youth movement of Soumaila Cissé’s party, said his party is working hard to convince undecided voters.

“Less than 50 percent of voters cast their ballot during the first round, so more people can be mobilised. This is important. Secondly, a lot of people voted for candidates who didn’t qualify for the second round. Of course they’ve pledged their allegiance to either our candidate or the other team. But we can always try to convince them [and] change their minds at the last minute. I’m convinced that on Sunday, we’ll be celebrating victory.”

Cissé supporters are also out in force to ensure people are voting correctly.

“Our youth movement will be present at almost all polling stations to help the voters. During the first round, a lot of Malians weren’t able to cast their ballots as they weren’t able to find their polling station. They had to be guided, orientated, in order for them to be able to find the right place where they can vote. We’re not only going to provide this service to our supporters, but to all Malians who need assistance.”

Cissé had complained about widespread fraud in the first round, while more than 400,000 ballots were declared void. But Mali’s Constitutional Court rejected the fraud allegations.

A UN peacekeeping mission along with more than 6,000 African solders are tasked with ensuring security on Sunday and in the months after the election.

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