Counting was under way on Monday in Mali following a key presidential election that saw balloting halted at hundreds of polling stations because of violence in restive regions of the poor Sahel country. Despite the violence, candidates and authorities praised Sunday’s first round of voting, relieved that the violence – which included the torching of polling stations and assaults on electoral officials – caused no casualties. Security was a central issue during the campaign, in which 73-year-old President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is seeking re-election with the international community hoping the poll will strengthen a 2015 peace accord.
Leading the pack of his 23 challengers is Soumaila Cisse, 68, a former finance and economy minister, who lost by a wide margin in the 2013 election that brought Keita to power.
Cisse’s campaign director said the team was “legitimately satisfied” after the vote, while slamming authorities for failing to provide adequate security – even though 30 000 security personnel were deployed throughout the country.