News / Africa

    Mali Awaits Presidential Election Results

    Malians stand in line to vote at a polling station set up in the Sabalibougoui school in Bamako during the presidential election in Mali on July 28, 2013.
    Malians stand in line to vote at a polling station set up in the Sabalibougoui school in Bamako during the presidential election in Mali on July 28, 2013.
    Anne Look
    Malians are waiting on the government to announce provisional results from Sunday's presidential poll, as authorities salute what they say could mark a historic high voter turnout in the country. No major issues were raised during the vote. The election is seen as the first step toward getting Mali back on its feet after a disastrous 18-month political crisis and an Islamist takeover of the north. 
     
    Malians voted Sunday in numbers that many think will set a new record in a country where voter turnout has never been more than 40 percent. 

    French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault praised the election as a great success that should give Mali "every chance" to become a democratic independent nation. France led a military intervention in Mali after a chaotic 18 months that saw a military coup and Islamist takeover of the north. 
     
    Critics say the organization of the vote was rushed.  Some people had trouble finding where they should vote, and there were reports that some Malians outside the country were not able to vote.
     
    Youssouf Sangare has worked in polling stations for the past five elections. For this election, he is the president of the largest voting center in Bamako, the Nyarkolo school.
     
    "A lot of people came out," he said. "From open to close, people came and just kept coming. I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime." 
     
    • Men search for their names on a list of registered voters outside a polling station in Kidal, Mali, shortly after the opening of polls, July 28, 2013. 
    • Election workers count votes at a station that reported a high voter turnout in Kidal, Mali, July 28, 2013. 
    • A Malian woman with her voting card in her hand goes to cast her vote in Bamako, Mali, July 28, 2013. 
    • A man is patted down by a United Nations peacekeeper outside the main polling place in Kidal, Mali, July 28, 2013. 
    • Election workers count votes at a station that reported a high voter turnout in Kidal, Mali, July 28, 2013. 
    • A French soldier stands guard as election workers unload ballot boxes containing election materials at the main polling station in Kidal, Mali, July 28, 2013. 
    • People queue to vote during Mali's presidential election in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013.
    • Young man glues campaign posters for Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on top of a pair posters for rival Dramane Dembele, Gao, Mali, July 25, 2013.
    • Supporters of presidential candidate Cheick Modibo Diarra distribute campaign flyers from the back of a moped as they ride in a campaign caravan through the streets of Bamako, Mali, July 20, 2013.
    As night fell and election officials counted ballots by lamplight, individual polling offices at the Nyarkolo center said they were counting turnouts as high as 65 percent. 
     
    Even as voting began Sunday morning across town in Bamako's Commune 5, voter Amady Diallo said he knew this time would be different. 
     
     "This election is a special case," Diallo noted. "We had the war, the coup, the jihadists who invaded the country. We need a legitimate government to fix things. That is why Malians are coming out in mass to vote to get a legitimate president and get Mali out of this rut it is in."
     
    It has been just seven months since French, Malian and regional troops liberated much of the north from al-Qaida-linked militants who seized control in the chaos that followed a new Tuareg rebellion in the north and a March 2012 military coup in the south. 
     
    Voter turnout was reported to be enthusiastic in the formerly occupied town of Gao Sunday. However, farther north, in the Tuareg rebel stronghold of Kidal, the number of ballots cast by midday was in the single digits for polling offices counting hundreds of registered voters. 
     
    Mali had just a few short months to organize this election, and there were issues, most notably with the voter list that had not been updated since 2009. However, officials say they were able to distribute 85 percent of the new biometric voter cards ahead of the vote. 
     
    The day was not without glitches. Some voters had trouble finding where they should vote, and there were reports that some Malians outside the country were not able to vote.
     
    A few of the 27 candidates expressed concern about fraud in the run-up to the poll. 
     
     "I trust in this election but authorities need to be vigilant to prevent people from cheating," voter Naba Keita said.
     
    Mali's interim president Diouncounda Traore has urged candidates to "remain democrats to the end" and accept the results.
     
    French, Malian and U.N. troops secured the vote nationwide. Security forces were on high alert in the formerly occupied northern towns that have been the target of jihadist attacks and suicide bombings since being liberated in January. No incidents were reported.
     

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