Malians have voted in the second round of parliamentary elections intended to return the west African nation to democracy.
Sunday’s polls mark Mali’s first steps to recovery after a military coup in March last year, finalising a process that begun with the election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August.
“This second round establishes the recovery on a foundation of legitimacy in this country. It will give us more strength, more power to say ‘Mali’ and that’s what Mali needs,” Keita said, on Sunday, after casting his ballot in the capital Bamako.
“What has been done has put us in a position to say Mali everywhere with honour and dignity, without any hang-ups.”
In the first round of the election on November 24 just 19 of the national assembly’s 147 seats were allocated, with turnout at 38.6 per cent, a drop of almost 13 per cent from the first round of the presidential vote.
After the first round of the parliamentary election, Louis Michel, chief of the European Union observation mission, called on “all political actors” to turn out in the second round.
“In the specific context of Mali, voting is not only a right, it is a moral duty,” he said.
But the campaign failed to capture the imagination of the electorate and many analysts in Bamako are expecting a further slide in turnout.
Many residents said they were not going to vote because they were unimpressed with the candidates and feared rebel attacks.
“When you hear of an attack in Kidal before the election, it makes you worry that there might be attacks in other parts of Mali,” a nurse told the AFP news agency.
The second round of the parliamentary election is Mali’s fourth nationwide ballot since July and other locals put the lack of interest down to voting fatigue.
In the restive north, polling opened without incident in the Gao and Timbuktu regions, with seats in Kidal decided in the first round.
“The operation here in Timbuktu is going well. For a start, women are the most numerous voters,” said the city’s mayor, Halle Ousmane Cisse.
“Fifty-two polling stations are open. Election materials are in place. It is calm here for the moment, and this is very important.”
The voting has been overshadowed by the killing of two Senegalese UN peacekeepers in the northern town of Kidal on Saturday.