Early results from Mali's presidential election show incumbent Amadou Toumani Toure holding a strong lead. Electoral officials told reporters of the results Monday, as the vote counting continued. Most observers say voting was fair. Naomi Schwarz has this report from Dakar.
Current president and the favorite to win the presidential vote, Amadou Toumani Touré, appears to have a comfortable lead, says election advisor General Wilfried Wesch.
"We gave a participation in elections yesterday in Mali, of between 40 and 50 percent in the country and 25 percent in Bamako," he said. "The next information I can give you is that amongst these 40 to 50 percent in the country and in Bamako, approximately up to 60-percent of voters, voted for the actual president."
Wesch, an envoy from Germany, has been in Mali for about a year helping the government organize the election. He says the Ministry of Interior has counted votes from only about 50 communities, out of more than 700.
Final results are not expected until the end of the week. If Mr. Touré holds on to his lead, then there will not be a second round vote.
However, at least one opposition candidate - National Assembly President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita - says the vote was marred by fraud.
Spokesman for the president, Kader Maiga, says the president is proud of what he has accomplished.
For the past five years, he has worked on improving the life of Malians, especially in regard to infrastructure, Maiga says. In a mere five years, he says the president has overseen the construction of thousands of new homes, a record for Mali since independence.
Maiga says the president is eager to continue working for another five-year term.
He believes Mr. Touré is going to continue to re-inforce what he has already accomplished, especially in regard to youth employment.
Meanwhile, Malians are recovering from, and celebrating Sunday's vote with a day off work.
They say they are pleased with how the voting took place, especially when compared to the fraud and irregularities reported from the recent election in Nigeria.
International observers were also satisfied.
From Togo, election observer Kamaloh Salif, says, from what he saw and heard, the voting was transparent and proceeded without incident.
Some were disappointed with the low turnout, which was about the same as the past presidential election in 2002.
This is the fourth successive democratic election in Mali, since a military dictatorship was overthrown 15 years ago. Mr. Touré was the leader of that coup, but he turned power over to an elected president the following year. He came to power again after winning the election in 2002.