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Mali Awaits Results of Presidential Vote - 2002-04-29


Voters in Mali are awaiting results of Sunday's presidential elections. Malians chose from a list of 24 candidates to succeed outgoing President Alpha Oumar Konare, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two five-year terms allowed by Mali's constitution. Observers monitoring the polling stations around Mali say the elections appear to have been carried out in a smooth and transparent manner. They say the few problems that did come up mostly had to do with some voters showing up at the polling booths without their registration cards.

For Malian voters, these were perhaps the most open elections held in the country in its four decades of independence. Unlike the last elections in 1997, no candidates or parties boycotted the poll. Sunday's was the third democratic election held in Mali since a one-party system was abolished with the ouster of longtime ruler Moussa Traore in 1991.

One voter, 52-year-old Naya Ly, emerging from the polling booth on Sunday, said the problem in these elections, as he sees it, was the large number of candidates on the ballot.

"I, personally, think it was excessive, but that is democracy," he said. "This early democratic experience is a good thing, but that does not justify this. Democracy, at the same time, should not mean anarchy. I think there should be measures put in place next time to limit the number of parties and candidates. I think, it is absolutely necessary," concluded Mr. Ly

The 24 candidates included a comedian and several former ministers. Those considered front-runners in the poll are former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, former Environment Minister Soumaila Cisse, and former transition leader and retired army general, Amadou Toumani Toure.

With so many candidates in the running, observers say, a second round is likely. It would be held on May 12, if Sunday's results show no single candidate emerged with a 51 percent majority.

Vote counting is expected to continue through Tuesday.

Covering more than one million square kilometers, Mali is one of the largest countries of Africa. Election organizers say getting results from voting locations in places like Tombouctou and the remote northern regions is taking time. Election officials are also tabulating votes coming in from the large community of Malian workers living in Europe and other African countries.

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