Mali’s Elections Declared Peaceful and a “Great Success”July 29, 2013 in Africa, Mali
France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault declared on Monday that elections in Mali, which were held on Sunday, were a “great success” for the country and for France, which deployed its troops to the African nation earlier this year in order to dislodge Islamist militant groups from the northern regions of the country. A high turnout has been reported despite renewed threats from Islamist groups that polling stations would be attacked.
Thousands of United Nations troops kept the peace on Sunday as Malians voted for a new president in a bid to usher in a new period of peace and stability in the first elections to be held since a military coup helped plunge the country into chaos. Early indications showed a record turnout in much of the country, where voters were choosing from twenty-seven candidates, all of whom have pledged to restore peace. Preliminary results collated by journalists in polling stations suggest that former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had taken a clear early lead. The unofficial projection may indicate that Mr. Keita, 69, could win the elections after the first round. Amongst the twenty-seven candidates, Mr. Keita is seen as the frontrunner. His main rival is thought to be Mr. Soumaila Cisse, a former chairman of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union. An official announcement on the first-round results however is not expected until Friday. If no candidate winds an overall majority, then a second round run-off between the top two contenders will be scheduled for August 11.
Voting stations opened on Sunday at 8:00AM (0800 GMT) under heavy security just one day after the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is one of the main armed groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had threatened to “strike” polling stations. However there have been no reports of any serious incidents occurring. Voting in the northern regions of the country also passed off peacefully. In Gao, which is northern Mali’s largest city, dozens of people lined up to vote in a school near Independence Square. Meanwhile in Timbuktu, voting went ahead after initial problems with organizations, in which many voters were unable to find their names on the voting lists. A large portion of the worry ahead of the polls had been focused on Kidal which was occupied for five months by Tuareg separatists until a ceasefire accord allowed the Malian army to provide security earlier this month. In the run-up to the elections, ethnic clashes between Tuareg rebels and black African left four people dead. In turn, gunmen, though to be from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) kidnapped five polling officials 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal.