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Mali Votes in Long-Delayed Parliamentary Election 

A voter wearing a mask checks the voters role at a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Gao, Mali, March 29, 2020.

Voters in Mali went to the polls Sunday to elect members of the 147-seat National Assembly.

The parliamentary election in the war-torn West African country, which should have taken place after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s 2018 reelection, has been postponed several times since then out of security concerns.

New members of the assembly are expected to emerge for the first time since 2013, when Rally for Mali, Keita’s party, gained a substantial majority.

Some 200,000 people displaced by the ongoing violence in northern and central Mali will not be able to vote, because "no mechanism has been established" to facilitate their participation, a government official said.

The COVID-19 outbreak has figured in the persistent security fears about the vote.

Late Saturday, the country announced its first coronavirus death with the number of infections rising to 18.

The abduction Wednesday of the veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse has also contributed to such fears.

Cisse, 70, who has been runner-up in three presidential elections, was campaigning in the central area of the country at the time.

Cisse and six members of his team were kidnapped in an attack in which his bodyguard was killed. It is believed that Cisse and his entourage are being held by a jihadist group linked to al-Qaida.

Cisse's Union for the Republic and Democracy urged supporters on Saturday to go to polling stations in even greater numbers.