Mali’s presidential election will go to a run-off poll after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get enough votes to win a second term outright, according to preliminary figures provided by government.
Keita won 41.4% of the vote in the mostly desert West African country, while rival Soumaila Cisse won 17.8%, the Ministry of Territorial Administration said four days after an election marred by accusations of fraud and attacks by suspected militants that prevented thousands from voting.
With neither candidate obtaining the 50% required to win outright, the two will meet in a run-off vote later this month. Turnout was just over 43%, in line with a historical average that is the lowest in West Africa.
Keita’s camp was confident of winning in the lead up to the count, but had not ruled out the possibility of a second round. They put a positive spin on the poll after results were announced.
“Forty-one percent in the first round of an election with 24 other candidates is a performance we salute,” said spokesman Mahamadou Camara. “We are confident for what comes next.”
His rivals repeated claims the president’s camp rigged the election by tampering with the electoral roll. Keita denied any wrongdoing and said the results were fair.
“This election was marred by irregularities, fraud and corruption. Despite the magnitude of the fraud the president is forced to go to a second round. It is a victory for the Malian people,” said Cisse’s campaign director Tiebile Drame.
Armed assailants shut down 644 polling stations on Sunday, representing about three percent of the total. About 20% were troubled by violence, figures from the Ministry of Territorial Administration showed. The European Union observer mission said there were irregularities, including in the distribution of electoral cards.
That fuelled doubts about the election’s credibility and worries it did not fully reflect the will of Malians, large numbers of who are spread across a vast desert where jihadists with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State roam.
Growth has averaged five percent under Keita and Mali’s key exports of gold and cotton flourished, as have agricultural staples such as rice, but security worsened, especially in the lead up to the vote.
Despite political turbulence, Malians this week kept up the tradition of not taking to the streets in violent protest during elections and the capital Bamako was calm.