Voters defy threats as polls close in Mali

Thousands of Malians went to the polls in country's first presidential election since a military coup last year.

    Mali's polls have closed amid reports of high voter turnout in the capital, but elsewhere in the country people found themselves unable to cast their ballots.

    Sunday's vote is expected to usher in a new era of peace and stability in the first election since a military coup upended one of the region's most solid democracies.

    Voters had a choice of 27 candidates to lead the troubled nation from a crisis ignited by the mutiny which allowed rebels to take control of its vast north before they were dislodged by a French-led military intervention.

    Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Bamako, said the election was being held with the world watching.

    "Most polls have closed, some have remained open because they opened late. On the whole it has been a peaceful election, there have been some technical problems," our correspondent said.

    "There is a huge amount of international interest here because security in Mali is crucial for the region, and that is why this vote is so important."

    Mali's untapped natural resources also make it of interest to the rest of the world, our correspondent said.

    Of the 27 candidates, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former Prime Minister from the 1990s seems to be a frontrunner.

    "He's seen as a strong opposition figure, an outspoken opponent of the use of drugs money," our correspondent said.

    'Large voter turn-out'

    Soumaila Cisse, a candidate from Timbuktu, appears to be Keita's closest rival and is seen as a man who could unite the north and south.

    Many voters could not find their names on the electoral lists, leading to upset among those who turned out to the polls.

    A survey by SOS Democracy suggested that, despite an international focus on security, Malians themselves are more concerned about infrastructure, education, health and the eradication of poverty that blights the country.

    No official announcement on the result is expected until Friday, although results will begin to trickle in from counts across the country over the next 24 hours.

    Despite earlier threats of violence, the day passed with no official reports of attacks.

    The APEM Network, an independent Malian organisation that deployed 2,100 observers across the nation, said in a statement issued halfway through voting that "a large voter turn-out was found" among the country's electorate of almost seven million.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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