Voters in Mali head to the polls on Sunday in the country’s first elections since a coup last year saw separatists and jihadist groups take control of the north of the country. However, some have suggested the election may be too rushed.
Despite security fears and problems with voter registration, millions of Malians are expected to take part in a pivotal presidential election on Sunday – the country’s first since it was torn apart by an 18-month armed conflict.
Voters will choose from a list of 27 candidates who have spent the past three weeks on the campaign trail.
An array of political heavyweights, including four former prime ministers, are in the running. Though just one female candidate is standing.
It is the first election to be held in the country since a coup in March last year led to large parts of the north of Mali being taken over by Tuareg separatists and jihadist groups.
The French military eventually intervened in an offensive launched this January, re-establishing Bamako’s control over the north of the country.
MALI'S LANDMARK POLL
However, with violence still common in the north and hundreds of thousands of citizens, particularly refugees displaced by the conflict, unable to obtain a voter ID card in time for the polls, doubts have been cast over Mali's readiness to deliver a safe and credible election.
Critics of the process at home and abroad have argued that Mali, under pressure from the international community, is rushing to the polls and risking a botched election, which could do more harm than good.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Mali's interim leader Dioncounda Traore have acknowledged that the vote may be "imperfect" in a country with 500,000 displaced citizens, but have urged Malians to respect the outcome.
Winner will have ‘more than enough legitimacy’
But others have sounded a more positive note over elections that few would have thought possible just a few months ago.
Louis Michel, the head of the European Union observation mission, said Friday conditions had been met for a credible first round and lauded efforts that have seen 85 percent of voter cards distributed to the electorate in time for Sunday’s vote.
"I believe that these elections can take place in a context and in conditions that are acceptable and do not allow for a distortion or an abuse of the result," he told reporters in the capital Bamako.
"I really think the personality who emerges during this election will have more than enough legitimacy."
Among the favourites to claim victory in the upcoming election is Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a prime minister from 1994 to 2000 who is standing as a presidential candidate for the third time after losing out in 2002 and 2007.
Many consider his main rival to be Soumaila Cisse, 63, a no-nonsense enforcer in the regime of ex-head-of-state Alpha Oumar Konare and a former president of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
If no majority winner emerges from Sunday's first round, the voting goes to a second round run-off between the two leading candidates on August 11.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-07-27