Counting underway amid low voter turnout in Mali run-off election

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Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Low turnout marred the vote for the run-off presidential election in Mali on Sunday, as several polling stations were attacked, voters chased away and one election official killed.

The Mali Citizen Observation Pool (POCIM) said the voter turnout was at 22%, as two polling stations were set on fire in Douentza district, and electoral agents were threatened.

POCIM said in a statement that voting was halted in Sendegue and Takoutala villages in Mopti region, after armed men chased away electoral agents.

In the worst incident, armed men killed the chairman of the electoral office in Arkodia village in Niafunke region in northern Mali, according to an army spokesman.

“In general, there have been problems with a lack of ballot papers, poor quality ink, and a failure to display voters lists in front of the polling stations,” the statement read.

Counting is underway and results are expected in the next five days.

The run-off was occasioned by an inconclusive vote in late July, where incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita garnered 41% of the vote against his main challenger Soumalia Cisse, who managed 18%.

Keita is expected to win a second term, despite not being able to quell a rise in ethnic and militant violence.

Thousands of soldiers were mobilised to provide security during the run-off, which European Union observers say was generally conducted well.

“I voted without problem,” said Dramane Camara at a polling station in a school in Bamako. “I expect the new president to solve the problem of the north, which is peace… Because the return of peace means the return of NGOs, investors, so creating jobs.”

The head of the European Union observer mission, Italian politician Cecile Kyenge, said that apart from the killing in Niafunke, the election appeared to have taken place without major incidents.

Keita urged people not to respond to any provocation as he voted in Bamako. “I pledge that all the difficulties we faced are now behind us,” he told cheering supporters.

Cisse, who lost against Keita in 2013, has accused the other side of cheating, saying in Bamako they had found people before the vote who already had ballot papers.

Cisse, who blames Keita for the worsening violence and accuses the government of rampant corruption, also alleged fraud in the first round but the constitutional court upheld the result.

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