President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Friday urged Malians who voted for him to turn out for a second round next week while his run-off opponent Soumaila Cisse called on parties to forge a “broad democratic front” against the incumbent.
Keita won 41.42% of votes in the first round of voting in the sprawling, landlocked African nation, easily ahead of Cisse with 17.8%. The second round will be held on August 12.
The first round, held on July 29, was marred by sporadic violence and threats from armed groups that led to several hundred polling stations being closed, mainly in the lawless central region.
“You proved all the naysayers wrong,” Keita told crowds of rapturous supporters in Bamako. He urged followers to “up this momentum and confirm the choice of peace and progress”.
Cisse, meanwhie, speaking to hundreds of supporters outside his party headquarters slammed an official tally of Sunday’s first round results, as “neither sincere, nor credible”.
Turnout was put at 43 percent, higher than many previous votes in a country where many live in rural, hard-to-access areas.
The European Union this week pressured the government to present a “complete and detailed list” of polling stations where voting did not take place.
The vote was monitored by observers from the European Union, the African Union, the regional ECOWAS grouping and the Francophonie organisation.
“These are the results of fraud, a shameful vote rigging in favour of the outgoing president,” railed Cisse. “We will not accept it”, the former finance minister vowed.
He urged the 22 candidates eliminated in the first round to support him and create a “broad democratic front against fraud and for political change,” adding he believed that a majority of people backed change.
Cisse, 68, also stood against Keita in 2013 but ended up well beaten.
This time, he insisted, victory was “within reach” if anti-Keita forces stood together.
The only female candidate, Djeneba N’Diaye, said earlier that her 11 600-strong support, equivalent to a 0.36% vote share, would now plump for Keita.
Teams from the European Union, the African Union, the regional Ecowas grouping and the Francophonie organisation sent observers to Sunday’s poll with the international community hoping the winner can foster broad support for strengthening a 2015 peace accord.
The government and mainly Touareg former rebels signed the agreement but its actual application has remained out of reach as jihadist violence has continued amid repeated states of emergency, the unrest permeating neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Mali, considered a linchpin state in the troubled Sahel region, is one of the world’s poorest countries, with most people living on less than $2 a day.