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Vote Tabulation Halted in Mali - 2002-04-30

In Mali, final election results have yet to be published following Sunday's presidential elections. International observers expressed concern after the tabulation of votes was abruptly halted early Tuesday.

Election organizers stopped publishing results, saying the only technician who had the password to the computer that tabulates the votes centrally had suffered what officials described as a serious car accident.

Reports of the accident were not independently verified.

Returns from precincts throughout the country continued to pour into the vote center in the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday, but no comprehensive results were released throughout the day.

Election observers, including those with the U.S.-based Carter Center, tell VOA they are concerned that they were not allowed open access to the room where election committee members were meeting on Tuesday.

Committee members say they needed to restrict access in order to do their work without interruption. Some observers say they were allowed to listen in on the meetings, but for no more than five minutes at a time.

The elections were carried out in an atmosphere of calm on Sunday, and voter turnout was reported to be about 40 percent. Observers at the time said these appeared to have been the most open elections in the history of the impoverished but politically stable country.

A total of 24 candidates ran in the poll to succeed outgoing President Alpha Oumar Konare, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two five-year terms allowed by the Mali constitution.

Early returns showed three candidates in the lead - former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, former transition leader Amadou Toumani Toure, and former cabinet minister Soumaila Cisse, who ran on the ruling party's ticket.

Opponents have criticized Mr. Cisse for spending too much money on his campaign. The government agency organizing the election, the Ministry of Territorial Administration, was also criticized because the wife of Territorial Administration Minister Ousmane Sy worked as Mr. Cisse's campaign manager. The minister insisted throughout that campaign that he would remain impartial.

International observers said that although they are concerned about not having open access to the election committee's meetings, they were expecting results to come in slowly, due in part to poor communications in the country's remote northern areas.

By law, final results are due by no later than Friday. If no candidate wins a majority, a second round of voting will be held on May 12.