Polls closed at 18:00 (local time) on Sunday, August 12, in Mali's presidential election runoff, which will determine whether incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (in office since 2013) or opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé will lead the country for the next five years. Local accounts indicate that voter turnout again was low (it was less than 43 percent in the first round), with the election marred by allegations of fraud and serious security concerns. President Keïta, who came away with almost 42 percent of votes in the first round against Cissé's nearly 18 percent, is widely expected to win; however, Mali's Ministry of Territorial Administration now has five days to release provisional results.
Although voting passed off smoothly in the country's south, including the capital Bamako, multiple violent incidents were reported in the country's restive northern and central regions despite a nationwide deployment of 36,000 Malian troops. In Tombouctou region, the head of a polling station in Arkodia village was shot and killed by militants on Sunday. Elsewhere in Tombouctou and Mopti regions, voting was disrupted by attacks on polling stations or stolen ballot boxes. Multiple polling stations were forced to close or never opened due to security concerns.
None of the 24 candidates who participated in the first round of voting on July 29 emerged with the required 50 percent of total votes, necessitating a runoff between the two front-runners, President Keïta and Cissé. An increased security presence was deployed across the country in anticipation of the August 12 runoff after some violence was reported at polling stations during the first round of voting in the country's northern and central regions. On August 11, Malian security officials announced that three people accused of planning attacks during the runoff election had been arrested in Bamako.
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.
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