Mali supporters of candidate Soumaila Cisse attend an election rally in Bamako. Credit/Aljazeera

Mali supporters of candidate Soumaila Cisse attend an election rally in Bamako. Credit/Aljazeera

 

Mali election: gladiators face runoff on August 12

With the results of Mali presidential election finally announced on Thursday, major contenders in the poll: incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s and former Finance Minister, Soumaila Cisse will face run-off on August 12.

Keita’s share of 41 percent votes fell short of the 50 percent required to secure an outright victory, prompting a runoff with closest rival, Cisse, who garnered 18 percent.

The 73-year-old Keita – or “IBK” is seeking second term.

Reports of widespread violence and rigging notwithstanding, Mali has recording its first toughest election where an opposition candidate forced the incumbent into a runoff.

The voting process encountered numerous obstacles, including rigging allegations and attacks carried out by an an-Qaeda-allied armed group operating in northern Mali.

“Violence cancelled voting in three percent of polling stations and disrupted it in one-fifth of them, particularly in the central Mopti region where a recent surge in inter-ethnic killings discouraged many residents from casting their ballots.

Mali’s central government has little control over its northern regions, where it relies on a United Nations peacekeeping mission and French troops to assure some limited degree of security”, Aljazeera said.

Such challenges notwithstanding, the July 29 vote has ushered in an extraordinary moment in Malian political history.

With the field of candidates narrowing from 24 in the first round to just two, the opportunity for an opposition upset has never been greater – and IBK’s campaign must go all-out to convince sceptical voters that he deserves a second term.

The 68-year-old Timbuktu native and veteran politician served in government with IBK during the 1990s, and has been a pillar of the political establishment for years-enough for many Malians to be wary of him.

In 2012, after the army seized power in a coup, Cisse was arrested and his home in the capital, Bamako, repeatedly ransacked by troops convinced that he had embezzled public funds. He later had to quash rumours of his involvement in corruption.

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