Vote counting is under way in Mali, where violent incidents halted the polling process in about three percent of the country’s voting stations during Sunday’s presidential election, according to official figures.
The crucial vote took place amid a volatile security situation in the country’s north and central regions in the face of continued attacks by armed groups and ethnic clashes.
According to figures released on Monday by the Ministry of Territorial Administration, 644 of the roughly 23,000 polling stations were upset by “armed attacks or other violence”. Voting in 4,632 other sites was also disrupted.
The process was briefly suspended at a polling station in a village in the northern region of Kidal after about 10 mortar shells were fired at the village. A Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack.
Separately, gunmen burned polling stations and ballot boxes in the village of Lafia, in the northern Timbuktu region.
No one has been reported killed.
Despite these incidents, voting went smoothly in most of Mali. Official results expected to be announced by Friday at the latest.
Keita, who is seeking a second five-year term, congratulated the people of Mali on the largely peaceful vote.
“It is the start of a victory for the people of Mali, who have voted in calm and serenity. This vote will have demonstrated our democratic maturity and our status as a great people,” he told reporters.
Opinion polls have suggested a tight race between Keita and former economist Cisse, which may result in a runoff vote on August 12.
‘We came here for peace’
Some 30,000 security personnel were deployed throughout the country before the vote amid security concerns.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the Malian capital, Bamako, said that security was a key issue for voters in the face of continued attacks by armed groups and ethnic clashes, mainly in the country’s north and central regions.
“Opponents of the president blame him for the failure to defeat armed groups and end ethnic violence. His main rival Cisse has gained tremendous support from those who say they are unhappy with the status quo,” he said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, voters said they went to cast their ballots “for Mali” and “for peace”, said Vall.
“There’s a consensus among them that for any democracy to be meaningful, it has to bring peace and stability to the nation”.
During his campaign, Keita suggested that peace had already been restored to Mali, saying he had toured all over the country and “nowhere did I feel afraid”.
In the past three years, attacks have tripled and violent deaths have doubled, according to civil society website Malilink.