Voting in Mali’s presidential election began on Sunday morning as polling stations opened nationwide, despite threats of violence from groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant organization in the West African country.
Insecurity has remained a problem in Mali since the coup d’etat in 2012 that ousted former president Amadou Toumani Toure, which led to rebellious Tuareg minority groups together with al-Qaida-linked extremist organizations taking control of the country’s north for 10 months, Efe reported.
Images from Sunday’s election showed Malian soldiers standing guard while voters cast their ballots at polling stations in the capital Bamako, and more than 30,000 troops have been deployed across the country.
In a field of 24 candidates, including one woman, the leading contenders to win were incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is seeking a second term, and opposition leader Soumaila Cisse.
France led a military intervention in Mali in 2013, and although the Malian government signed a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in 2015 between the government and the Tuareg rebels, the threat of terror attacks and ethnic violence has persisted, with large parts of the country still outside the state’s control.
Polls are set to be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with 8.4 million eligible voters and over 23,000 polling stations.
The results of the Sunday’s first round of voting are set to be announced in the coming days, and if a candidate obtains more than 50 per cent of the vote, there will be no need for a run-off round, scheduled for August 12.