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Mali Votes in Presidential Election Amid Insecurity

Mali Votes in Presidential Election Amid InsecurityMali Votes in Presidential Election Amid Insecurity

Voting started slowly Sunday as people in Mali headed to the polls to vote for a president amid increasing attacks by a number of extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the self-styled Islamic State terror organization.

Voters have expressed concern about being targeted after al-Qaeda’s Mali branch had warned months ago against going to the polls. Deadly communal clashes between ethnic groups and accusations of heavy-handed counter-terror operations have complicated what President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita hopes will be an election victory leading him to a second term, AP reported.

The 73-year-old, who was elected in 2013, faces 23 candidates in the first round. His main challenger is 68-year-old Soumaila Cisse, his rival in 2013, who has criticized the president for not addressing Mali’s rising insecurity.

Several political parties have expressed doubts about a valid election after duplicate and fictitious polling stations were listed on the electoral commission’s website.

The government and the electoral commission have promised a smooth vote, but many in Mali are still worried.

More than eight million voters were registered. If no candidate wins more than 50% in the first round, Malians will vote in a second round on Aug. 12.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Malians to maintain a peaceful course and said in a statement Saturday he was encouraged by a peaceful campaigning period, despite security challenges in the north and center.

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