Mali votes in crucial presidential poll
The eyes of the world were on Mali Sunday as the west African country held its first presidential election since a military officers toppled a civilian government in March 2012, leading to Tuareg separatists and armed Islamists taking control of the north of the country only to be driven out by a French-led military intervention.
“I think that this is the best election that Malians can remember since 1960,” interim president Dioncounda Traoré said when he went to vote in Bamako at 9.30am.
That did not mean everything ran smoothly. A number of voters in Bamako in the south and Timbuktu in the north told RFI’s reporters that they were unable to find the polling stations.
In a country where election turnout is traditionally low, the authorities, and the French who intervened militarily this year against Islamist rebels, hope a good turnout will boost the government in Bamako’s legitimacy.
The Movement for Unity and Jihad and West Africa (Mujao), one of the armed groups that took control of the north of the country last year, threatened to disrupt the poll but voting started well in key northern cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keîta and former finance minister Soumaïla Cissé are considered the favourites in the race, with another ex-PM, Modibo Sidibé following.
The principal issues in this election: