Possible presidential run-off in Mali

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The party of Malian presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse said the poll would go to a run-off between Cisse and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a day after a vote heavily disrupted by suspected Islamist gunmen.

Cisse’s campaign manager, Tiebele Drame, made the announcement at party headquarters in Bamako.

Keita’s spokesman said the president was substantially in the lead according to provisional vote count, although he accepted a run-off was possible.

Spiralling jihadist violence is a key issue in the campaign, as attacks multiply and the death toll mounts across north and central Mali.
“The law forbids proclamation of results by anyone except the Ministry of Territorial Administration,” Drame told a news conference. “However, I can tell you we are going to a second round between Soumaila Cisse and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.”

Mahamadou Camara, spokesman for Keita, said, “According to our tally, IBK has come substantially ahead,” using the popular nickname for the president, taken from his initials.

Exact numbers of voters disenfranchised by violence is not known, but they could become a flashpoint if the vote is close. Ministry of Territorial Administration figures showed of the roughly 23,000 polling stations meant to open, 4,632 were disrupted by “armed attacks or other violence,” with 644 unable to operate.

In most of Mali, the vote was peaceful and relatively well organised, with polls opening and closing on time. Most people who were enrolled and turned up were able to vote.

TIMBUKTU BLUES

In Timbuktu, once a flourishing tourist spot before Islamist militants made it too dangerous, witnesses said gunmen intimidated voters, seized ballot boxes and in some cases set fire to them in a few polling stations attacked outside town.
“They came, they fired their weapons and then they took ballot boxes away,” witness and Timbuktu resident Insubdar Inaboud (42) told Reuters. Inaboud said he would have voted for Cisse, who hails from the region, if he had had the chance.
“I’m angry. I don’t think this vote is valid, because we are also Malians,” he said.

Islamist militants took over northern cities like Timbuktu in 2012 on the back of a Tuareg rebellion, imposing Sharia law with harsh penalties like cutting off fingers for smoking, until France intervened a year later to push them back. The Islamist militants regard democracy as an un-Islamic Western imposition.

Since Keita came to power in the 2013 poll, Islamist violence swept south into Mali’s fertile centre. UN mission chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif urged whoever wins the poll to urgently address jihadist-stoked ethnic violence in Mali’s central “breadbasket.”

Figures from the ministry showed the central region Mopti accounted for half the polling stations under attack.

Hamid Bore (39) was in charge of a station in Dembere. The militants arrived just as polls opened at 8 a.m. he said.
“They were firing shots and then they asked for the bureau chief,” he told Reuters. “They beat us up, then stole the ballot boxes and our bikes. I had to walk back. This is our only means of travel. How am I going to survive now?”

At a news conference, the head of the European Union observer mission welcomed the decision to make public the number of polling stations not able to function but urged it to publish more precise information.
“The lists published by government do not identify polling stations precisely as we asked them to do,” mission chief Cecile Kyenge said. “That makes…observing difficult.”

A second round would temporarily cool tensions. Cisse’s campaign repeatedly accused Keita of tampering with the electoral list to try to steal the election.
“We contest in advance these contradictory results and demand a recount,” Drame said.



The United Nations is heaping pressure on all sides to accept the result — or at least contest it through legal channels — to avert a political crisis on top of the security woes the country is already facing.