The poll has seen huge turnout despite security fears.
Millions of Malians turned out despite security worries on Sunday to vote in a presidential election many believe will help restore stability to the troubled West African country that has seen turmoil for more than a year.
A total of 6.8 million people of Mali’s 15 million people are registered to vote. They are choosing from candidates including the former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, known by his initials IBK, and Soumaila Cisse, an ex-finance minister and current head of the West African Monetary Union.
Turnout for a presidential election in Mali has never exceeded 40 percent.
Despite widespread jubilation that greeted the military intervention by French and African troops that ousted jihadists early this year, many Malians have criticized the former colonial power and other western donors for pressuring Mali into holding elections before the country was ready.
Still, many Malians welcomed the poll in the hope it will hasten the return to norm which has normalcy.
After some initial delays in deploying voter materials, voters carrying ID cards formed long lines in the dirt courtyards of schools by mid-morning, according to Reuters news agency.
In the northern desert town of Timbuktu, seized by al Qaeda-linked rebels last year, Malian soldiers manned checkpoints. People turned out in large numbers despite a threat from an Islamist group to attack polling stations. By early afternoon, no incident had been reported, Reuters said.
Out of the 27 presidential candidates, the favourites are veteran politicians who were the runners-up in the two previous two elections, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known as IBK, and Soumaila Cisse. If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off will be held on August 11.
Thousands of UN troops kept the peace on Sunday
In France, where an estimated 200,000 Malians live, there were reports of chaotic scenes with polling stations opening late and many voters unable to cast their ballot, according to the UK Guardian.
But observers said that all appeared to be going smoothly in Mali.
“So far it’s going quite well all over the country,” said John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana and head of a 250-man observer mission of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
“Indications are that things have been very orderly from the beginning. People are going about voting with any disturbances. We are closely following what’s happening in the north, and we have observers on the ground there who are in touch with us. So far in Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, in all these places people voting.”
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