The polls are closed and counting has begun in the presidential election in the West African state of Mali. Observers said they have had no reports of any major incidents in a ballot which is seen as crucial in uniting the country following a coup in March last year.
Early reports indicate the turnout was high at the country’s 21,000 polling stations. Government official, Madame Coumare highlighted the importance of the ballot.
“It’s an improvement for Mali. We should have a democratic government and reliable organisations which is what some investors have said before. We can vote for such organisations through elections, and so we can work hard to obtain trust from others,” she said.
Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is one of the the leading candidates. It’s believed he could win enough votes in the first round to be elected. Just under seven million are registered to vote out of a population of 15 million.
His closest rival is believed to be ex-finance minister Soumalia Cisse. Voting turn out was reported to be higher in the north which analysts believe reflects the north-south split.
French troops intervened in the country in January defeating Tuareg rebels and al Qaeda-linked fighters after they had occupied the desert north and had marched on the south of the country.
France led the push for these elections to replace the interim administration which has led the country since April last year. The new president will have to oversee peace talks with Tuareg rebels.
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