Polls closed for Mali's presidential elections at 18:00 (local time) on Sunday, July 29. Although voting took place largely without incident in the south (including the capital Bamako), some violence was reported at polling stations in the country's northern and central regions despite heavy security deployments nationwide. One village in Kidal region had to suspend voting on Sunday when around ten mortar shells were fired in the Aguelhok area from an unidentified source, according to the spokesperson for the United Nations' mission in Mali (MINUSMA); no casualties were reported as a result of the attack. In Tombouctou region, unidentified gunmen targeted polling stations in Lafia, burning ballot boxes and forcing local authorities to call off voting. Incidents were also reported in Fatoma and Gandamia (both in Mopti region). In all, over 100 polling stations nationwide were not able to open amid security concerns, according to state television outlet ORTM.
Initial results are expected to be released within 48 hours of polls closing, with official results to follow by August 3. If necessary, a second round of voting will be held on August 12. There is a risk of civil unrest in Bamako and other major cities in the coming days, especially following the announcement of results.
A total of 24 candidates participated in the race, although incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (in office since 2013) and opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé are the two main contenders.
Many of Mali's security concerns are due to the presence of armed extremist groups, notably in the country's northern and central regions. These areas 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.
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.