Dakar – Malian President Ibrahim Keita won re-election with 67 per cent of the vote in a run-off against opposition rival Soumaila Cisse, the Ministry of Territorial Administration said on Thursday.
The victory hands Keita a second term in the mostly desert West African country where militant violence and claims of fraud by the opposition marred the poll. The victory hands Keita a second five-year term in the mostly desert West African country where militant violence and claims of fraud by the opposition marred the poll.
Keita’s now faces the giant task of lifting Mali out of a spiral of Islamist and ethnic violence in the center and north where attacks worsened in the months leading up to the vote despite the presence of UN and French troops.
Threats by jihadist militants forced nearly 500 polling stations – about two percent of the total – to stay closed during Sunday’s run-off, the government said. One election official was killed in northern Niafunke, in Timbuktu region. It also meant voter turnout of over 2.7 million people was a muted 34 per cent of the electorate. Cisse has accused the Keita’s campaign of ballot stuffing and tweaking electoral rolls to secure the win, accusations Keita denies.
In spite of the bitter rhetoric leading up to Thursday’s results, however, the streets of Bamako and other main cities remained calm this week. The country exports gold and cotton. European Union observers said on Tuesday they saw irregularities but not fraud. “The vote generally took place calmly, despite security incidents in the centre and north,” EU mission head Cecile Kyenge told reporters in the capital Bamako. “Our observers did not see fraud but problems of irregularities,” she said, citing threats by armed groups and a lack of communication between election officials.
Mali is a major concern for Western powers due to the presence of militant groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State. EU observers did not deploy to some regions in the north and centre due to repeated attacks there by jihadist groups and ethnic militia this year that have killed hundreds of civilians, Malian troops and U.N. peacekeepers.
A Malian observer group estimated turnout for the second round at only about 27 percent of eight million registered voters due to security fears and voter apathy. Keita won the first round on July 29 with about 41 percent of the vote despite his government’s failure to slow the surging violence.