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Polls: Support grows for Mali's Keita

07 August 2013, 14:21

Bamako - Most of Mali's political leaders have come out in support of leading presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubakar Keita following frantic coalition building this week, bolstering his chances of victory on Sunday.

Former prime minister Keita, who secured a strong lead of 39.24% of votes in the first round, will face former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, who got 19.44% of votes, in the run-off.

The Constitutional Court will have to officially confirm these results before the run-off can go ahead.

Cisse said he was preparing to challenge the preliminary results before the end of the week. His campaign manager Djibril Tangara told dpa: "We are gathering evidence, and we shall put it to the court very soon."

Since the preliminary results were released Friday, both camps have been vying for the electorate of the other candidates, especially that of Dramane Dembele, who came third with 9.6 per cent of votes.

By Tuesday, 19 of the 25 losing candidates - including Dembele - from the first round on 28 July, vowed support for Keita.

Only two candidates - Modibo Sidibe, who came fourth with 4.5%, and Jeamille Bittar, with 1.74% - pledged support for Cisse, citing previous party alliances.

The four remaining candidates said Tuesday they hadn't yet made up their minds.

Cisse, however, has the backing of the West African nation's biggest political party - Alliance for a Democratic Mali - from which he could gain tens of thousands of votes.

People of influence

While Keita's camp has proclaimed it is certain of victory, political analysts cautioned not to trust the hastily built coalitions.

"It remains to be seen if the supporters of the different candidates will follow their voting instructions," said Amadou Garan Kouyate, an analyst at the Circle of Reflection and Research on Corruption, in Bamako.

"Only one thing is certain at this point: Malians will vote for change."

Mali is attempting to recover from a military coup and an Islamist insurgency that prompted France to send troops to its former colony.

The presidential poll has been widely criticised for using a four-year-old electoral roll, rushing the distribution of voters' cards and excluding hundreds of thousands of voters displaced since a military coup in March 2012.

Cisse, 63, who hails from the northern town of Timbuktu, claims to be a victim of these irregularities and also alleges fraud.

His camp also wants to file a complaint against influential religious leader Cherif M'bouille for publicly backing Keita. The country's electoral law forbids "people of influence" from using their position to promote political candidates.

"As for the religious leaders' backing, that is just part of Malian politics. The other side criticizes us for it, but if they could have got the backing, they would have done it, too," Mahamane Baby, a former youth leader of Keita's Rally for Mali party, told dpa.

Keita, 68, who has twice lost presidential elections, is also considered a favourite of the army because he was the only candidate who never criticized the March 2012 military coup.

Peace and stability

Keita and Cisse faced off once before, in the 2002 presidential elections, when Cisse came second and Keita third behind the eventual winner, Amadou Toumani Toure.

Most Malians say that whatever the outcome they are confident the election will bring peace and stability to the conflict-ridden nation.

"Until now, it was politicians who were responsible for Mali's under-development through corruption. This year, for the first time, there is a chance for real change," said Mamoutou Coulibaly, a retired engineer from Bamako.

There is hope in the north, where security remains precarious 17 months after the coup deposed the elected president and seven months after France launched a military operation in January to stop Islamist militants from advancing towards the capital.

"A few months ago, it didn't look like we could hold peaceful elections in such a short time. But we did it. The next step is to rebuild our social fabric," said Sadio Diallo, the mayor of the northern town Gao.

About 300km further north, in Timbuktu, housewife Aissata Alhassane is equally optimistic: "We believe [the elections] will pave the way for peace. It's about time we get out of this crisis."



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