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Low Turnout in Mali Runoff Presidential Election - 2002-05-12

The second round of presidential elections has ended in Mali. Observers report there was a very low turnout in the poll to find a successor to outgoing President Alpha Oumar Konare.

The poll Sunday was carried out in an atmosphere of calm amid what observers said was a very low voter turnout in the capital, Bamako.

On the ballot were Amadou Toumani Toure, a retired army general who led Mali during a period of transition to democracy ten years ago, and former cabinet minister Soumaila Cisse of the ruling party.

The government on Sunday said it would not start publishing results until 50 percent of the votes had been tallied. Observers said the move was meant to avoid embarrassment in the event that there is another delay in the release of results.

Mr. Toure and Mr. Cisse finished first and second, respectively, among a list of 24 candidates who ran in the first round on April 28.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the candidate who came in third, contested the vote, alleging there had been what he said were serious irregularities in the vote-counting.

After Mali's constitutional court ratified results last week, however, Mr. Keita and a coalition of his supporters announced they were endorsing Amadou Toumani Toure. Sunday's polling came after a chaotic period of vote-counting following the first round. Results were delayed several times. The tabulation of votes was interrupted for one full day. The government explained the incident by saying the only person who had the password for the computer that was tabulating the votes had been seriously injured in a car accident.

Observer David Pottie of the U.S.-based Carter Center toured some of the polling stations in Bamako Sunday. He told VOA election officials took other measures to ensure that this poll would go smoother.

"The election materials appear to have been in place so that polling stations that we visited all opened on time," he said. "That was certainly one of the constraints on the successful conduct of the first round of the elections."

The winner of the second round will succeed outgoing President Alpha Oumar Konare, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two, five-year terms allowed by Mali's constitution.

Mr. Konare, who threw his support behind Amadou Toumani Toure, won the praise of the international community for leaving office without maneuvering to change the country's constitution in order to stay in power.