Campaign season for Mali's July 29 presidential elections launched on Saturday, July 7, and will run until July 27. A total of 24 candidates have been approved by Mali's constitutional court to take part in the race, although incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (in office since 2013) and opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé are expected to be the main contenders. Security has been heightened across the country, with over 30,000 officers mobilized to "secure candidates on the ground and voting operations" as authorities and observers remain concerned over possible militant attacks. In addition, over 80 election observers from the European Union are expected to arrive in the country, according to the EU Election Observation Mission in Mali. A visibly increased security presence, as well as localized transportation disruptions, are to be expected in the vicinity of all campaign events and polling stations.
The first round of presidential elections is scheduled for July 29. If necessary, a second round of elections will be held on August 12. Soumaïla Cissé, the leader of the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party, was confirmed as the opposition coalition's candidate on May 26 after receiving the support of the National Council of the Party for National Renaissance (PERENA), one of the other main opposition parties in the country. Current President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita confirmed on May 28 that he will run for re-election. In June, authorities banned a planned opposition march, spurring protests that left at least 25 people injured. The possibility of further electoral unrest during the election campaigns cannot be ruled out.
These elections have been repeatedly postponed since 2013, due largely to security concerns posed by armed extremist groups. Due to the presence of various armed groups, Mali's northern and central regions remain unstable despite the presence of MINUSMA, one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world, and a French-led intervention launched in 2013 that drove many extremists from their strongholds. On July 1, at least four people were killed and 20 more injured in an attack on a joint French-Malian military patrol in Gao.
Individuals in Mali are advised to monitor the situation and avoid all political events and large public gatherings due to significant security concerns (e.g. unrest, risk of terrorist attack). The security environment in Mali remains complex, particularly in the north and central regions. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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