Malians voted Sunday in a presidential election run-off expected to usher in a new dawn of peace and stability in the conflict-scarred nation.
An electorate of almost seven million was urged to choose between former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse to lead Mali’s recovery following a military coup that ignited an Islamist insurgency and a French-led military intervention.
The election, the first since 2007, is crucial for unlocking more than $4 billion in aid promised after international donors halted contributions in the wake of last year’s coup.
Torrential rain hit early turnout, however, with many polling stations in the capital Bamako reporting smaller numbers than during the first round, when a turnout of nearly 50 percent was seen as a key sign that the electoral process would be viewed as credible.
“The rain is trying to ruin our day. I hope it stops, otherwise they will have to extend the voting hours,” said Oumar Toure, one of the few voters who had turned up at the opening of a polling station in a city centre school.
The return to democratic rule will allow France to withdraw most of the 4,500 troops it sent to Mali in January to oust Al-Qaida-linked extremists who had occupied the north.
Keita, 68, who is considered the favourite, was more than 20 percentage points ahead of his rival in the first round.