DAKAR, SENEGAL— In Mali, the results are out and the country's presidential election is headed to a second round between two former government ministers, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Soumaila Cisse.
Mali's Minister of Territorial Administration, Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, announced the full provisional results of what we can now say was the first round of Mali's presidential election, held on July 28.
He said candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita led the poll with 39.2 percent of votes, followed by candidate Soumaila Cisse with 19.4 percent.
The two will now head to a runoff election on August 11 since no one secured a majority.
Keita and Cisse were the frontrunners among the 27 first-round candidates.
Cisse is expected to get the backing of the 3rd-place candidate, Dramane Dembele, who is from the country's largest political party, ADEMA, and who got 9.6 percent of votes in the first round.
Malians expect the runoff to be tightly contested.
Keita, known almost exclusively by his initials IBK, is a National Assembly representative for Bamako. He is known for his "say it like it is" demeanor, fierce nationalism and his support for the armed forces.
Cisse, also known by his nickname "Soumi," is a technocrat from Timbuktu known for his experience in management and finance.
They served together in government in the 1990s with Keita as prime minister and Cisse as minister of finance. They then went into opposing camps following the election in 2002 of now-ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure. Cisse was pro-Toure. Keita was against.
Cisse went on to chair the West African Monetary Union from 2004 to 2011, while Keita served as president of the National Assembly for five years until 2007.
Despite a crunched electoral timeline and numerous issues with the voter list, Malians voted like never before in the first round on July 28, setting a new record for voter turnout. The government said 51.5 percent of the country's nearly 7 million registered voters cast their ballots.
Some candidates, including Cisse, have alluded to irregularities and fraud during that first round. However, international observer missions have certified the election as free and fair and said any organizational issues they noted were minor and would not undermine the credibility of results.
Malians hope this election will turn the page on 18 months of unprecedented crisis and conflict that included a Tuareg rebellion, a military coup and an Islamist takeover of the north last year.