Keita 'well ahead' in presidential race
13 August 2013, 11:24
Bamako - Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita pulled
ahead in Mali's presidential race Monday, according to electoral and security
sources, with two-thirds of votes counted in the watershed ballot.
Keita - widely known as IBK - faced ex-finance minister
Soumaila Cisse in Sunday's election, which is expected to provide a fresh start
to the troubled west African nation following more than a year of political
turmoil, including war and a military coup.
"With nearly two-thirds of the ballots counted, IBK is
well ahead," said the source close to Mali's election commission, which
helped organise the polls.
Unofficial estimates obtained by AFP from Malian security
sources also put Keita, 68, comfortably in the lead.
But Gouagnon Coulibaly, Cisse's campaign manager, said there
had been "massive fraud" during the election, without elaborating,
and accused the transitional government of being "partisan" in favour
The election, the first since 2007, is seen as crucial for
unlocking more than $4bn in aid promised by international donors who halted
contributions in the wake of last year's coup that ignited an Islamist
insurgency and a French military intervention.
The government has until Friday to make public the result of
the run-off, called after none of 27 candidates in the first round on July 28
secured an outright majority.
Voting was hampered by heavy downpours in the capital
Bamako, and the European Union's election observation mission gave an estimated
turn-out of "around 45%", lower than the 48.9% achieved in the first
round but still significantly higher than in previous elections.
The mission said voting had complied with international
standards in "99%" of Mali's polling stations.
"Whoever is elected will be elected with democratic
legitimacy. That is my belief," mission chief Louis Michel told reporters
in Bamako, adding that there had been "a leap forward in terms of
democracy in this country".
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton welcomed what she called "a credible and transparent"
election, according to a statement from her office released in French.
She urged all the candidates and parties to accept the outcome
and "support the future government in the efforts it must make to build a
durable peace and restore national unity," it said.
Ashton pledged EU support for such efforts.
Keita and Cisse, 63, lost out in 2002 to Amadou Toumani
Toure, who was overthrown by a military junta in March last year just weeks
before the end of his final term in office.
The return to democratic rule will allow France to withdraw
most of the 4,500 troops it sent to Mali in January to oust al-Qaeda-linked
extremists who had occupied the north in the chaos that followed the coup.
Keita was more than 20 percentage points ahead of his rival
in the first round but Cisse had complained about widespread fraud.
Mali's Constitutional Court rejected the allegations,
however, confirming that Keita had won 39.8%, while Cisse attracted a 19.7% share.
Keita claimed to have the support of 22 of the 25 candidates
eliminated in the first round and was backed by Mali's influential religious
establishment, while Cisse was endorsed by Adema, Mali's largest political
The country of more than 14 million remains the continent's
third-largest gold producer, but its $10.6bn economy contracted by 1.2% last
year. Widespread poverty has contributed to unrest in the north, with several
armed groups vying for control in the vacuum left when the Islamists 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 populous and prosperous south of marginalising them.
A UN peacekeeping mission integrating more than 6 000
African soldiers was charged with ensuring security on Sunday and in the months
after the election. By the end of the year it will have grown to 11 200 troops
and 1 400 police.