Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won a landslide victory in a run-off against opposition rival Soumaila Cisse, the government said on Thursday, giving him a second term to try to turn back a surge in ethnic and Islamist militant violence.
Keita won 67 percent of the vote in an election marred by militant attacks and claims of fraud by the opposition.
The task ahead for president Keita
Keita, known as IBK, now faces the giant task of lifting Mali out of a spiral of Islamist and ethnic bloodshed in the center and north, where attacks worsened in the months leading up to the vote despite the presence of a United Nations peacekeeping force and French troops.
The security situation and the militants’ ability to spread their influence to other West African countries is a concern to Western powers. Mali is also a main transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe via North Africa’s shores, a priority issue in EU capitals.
Threats by jihadists forced nearly 500 polling stations – about two percent of the total – to stay closed during Sunday’s run-off, the Ministry for Territorial Administration said. One election official was killed in northern Niafunke, in Timbuktu region.
Voter turnout of more than 2.7 million people was a muted 34 percent of the electorate.
Keita’s supporters celebrate
A crowd of about 200 people danced and sang inside Keita’s campaign headquarters after the result was announced on state television.
“I am very happy, there is nothing to say, the gap is huge, the opposition must understand that there is no match,” said Tambours Adizatou Sogoba, a Keita supporter. “He has another five years, he will make Mali an emerging country.”
Opposition cries foul
A few hundred meters away at the headquarters of opposition leader Cisse, about 40 supporters carrying placards reading “hands off my vote” and “respect the Malian vote” echoed Cisse’s complaints this week that he had won but IBK’s camp cheated by ballot stuffing and tweaking electoral rolls.
Tiebele Drame, Cisse’s campaign manager, said: “The result does not reflect the truth of the polls, it does not reflect the Malian vote”.
He said the poll was rigged and a “manipulation of the vote”. Cisse had accused Keita of failing to get a grip on the violence and of allowing corruption to flourish.
But Keita’s campaign manager, Bocary Treta, said: “It is a victory for the Malian people. International observers were stationed all over and they paid tribute to the quality of the vote.”
The European Union observer mission and other local and international monitors have said that although there were irregularities and disruptions, they saw no evidence of fraud.