Mali’s presidential election will go to a runoff vote after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita came in first but failed to secure enough votes to win a second term in office outright, according to preliminary figures.
The Ministry of Territorial Administration said on Thursday that Keita won 41.4 percent of Sunday’s vote, while his main rival Soumaila Cisse came in second with 17.8 percent.
The two, who also went to a runoff vote in 2013, will contest the second round of voting on August 12.
A candidate needed to obtain more than 50 percent of the votes to win outright.
Businessman Aliou Boubacar Diallo came in third with 7.95 percent, while former NASA employee Cheick Modibo Diarra received 7.46 percent. The constitutional court has three days to validate the results.
The ministry said there was a 43 percent participation rate among Mali’s more than eight million registered voters, in a poll that took place under the threat of attack from armed groups.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Mali’s capital, Bamako, said the results were “not far from expectations”.
He added, however, that 18 out of 23 presidential contenders had issued a joint statement demanding that the government investigate what they said was fraud in the presidential election.
“If this unity that they have shown is going to be translated into unity behind Cisse in the runoff, that could present a huge challenge for Keita,” said Vall.
“No opposition leader has even won an election against a sitting president in Mali’s democratic history – if it happens this time around it will be unprecedented.”
Vall said the opposition has gained “quite a lot of support” over the past year because “people were unhappy with the way Keita ran the country” since his 2013 election.
“They expected him to end violence, to improve the economy and unite the country – but that’s not what happened, according to his critics. There have been increasing attacks and increasing insecurity in the north and ethnic fighting in the centre of the country.”
Sunday’s vote was marred by claims of irregularities and unrelated attacks by suspected armed groups that prevented thousands from voting.
Attackers shut down 644 polling stations, representing about three percent of the total. About a fifth were troubled by violence, according to government figures.
That has fueled doubts about the election’s credibility and worries that it did not fully reflect the will of Malians, large numbers of whom are spread across a vast desert where groups with links to al-Qaeda and ISIL roam.
In the past three years, attacks have tripled and violent deaths have doubled, according to civil society website Malilink.