Voting ends in Mali presidential poll

Result of run-off between ex-PM and former finance minister expected to be known by the end of the week.

    Malians have cast their votes for a new president they hope will usher in a new era of peace in the West African nation - with international montiors reporting satisfaction with voting conditions.

    Polls closed shortly after 6pm on Sunday in a run-off that pits Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister, against Soumaila Cisse, a former finance minister.

    The two candidates have declared themselves confident of victory in the run-off, called after none of the 27 candidates in the first round on July 28 achieved an outright majority.

    Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris, reporting from the capital Bamako, said that EU observers were happy with the vote, the result of which should be known by the end of the week. 

    "Logistics problems in the first round were largely solved," he said. "They were happy, thinking that this will probably run according to plan."

    However, he said bad weather and apathy may have affected turnout.

    "There is a fear that the turnout will drop by 10 percent on the first round," he said. About 50 percent of Mali's seven million voters participated in the first round of voting.

    Keita is the favourite, having won 39.8 percent of the vote to Cisse's 19.7 percent in the first round. Cisse's claims of voter fraud were rejected by the Mali Constitutional Court.

    The election is crucial to Mali's recovery following a military coup in 2012 that led to an armed uprising and a French-led military intervention.

    It will unlock more than $4bn of aid promised by international donors and allow France, Mali's former colonial master, to withdraw most of the 4,500 troops it sent in January to remove al-Qaeda-linked fighters from northern areas.

    Lydie Boka, an Africa analyst based in France, told Al Jazeera that the winner would have to deal with serious challenges, mainly reconciling the country's south with the politically unstable north.

    Keita said reconciliation would be his "first priority".

    Widespread poverty has contributed to unrest in the north, with several armed groups vying for control in the vacuum left when the fighters fled.

    The region is home predominantly to lighter-skinned Tuareg and Arab populations who accuse the sub-Saharan ethnic groups that live in the more prosperous south of marginalising them.

    Keita and Cisse have faced off before, losing the 2002 presidential election to Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown by a military junta in March 2012 as he was preparing to end his final term in office.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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