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Malians vote in an election seen as model for Africa

Malians vote in an election seen as model for Africa

Fifteen years after Mali's dictator was toppled in a coup, Malians were voting Sunday in an election expected to be its fourth free and democratic vote for president in a region often marred by vote-rigging and election day violence.
Though chronically impoverished, Mali has managed to be a success story for democracy in Africa, where Nigeria's recent election was marked by ballot box-stuffing, vote rigging and eruptions of violence.
As Malians lined up in the early morning light at polling stations throughout the country, many predicted an easy re-election victory for President Amadou Toumani Toure, who needs to defeat seven other candidates to win a second five-year term.
"I've been here since before the polls opened to make sure my candidate _ Toure _ wins," said an elderly woman, Kadiadou Diarrasso, who waited her turn to vote, a process that in Mali's illiteracy-proof voting system involves dipping her index finger in blue ink and tattooing the space next to the image of her candidate on a ballot containing the photographs of all eight contenders.
Yet even as Malians take pride in their reputation as an African country that has managed to embrace democracy despite poverty and ethnic divisions, some say Toure _ who has headed the country since 2002 _ has not done enough to improve the lives of those struggling to eke out a living in a country where 60 percent of the population of 12 million lives below the poverty line.
"I'm here to vote so that another Mali may be possible," said 18-year-old Alima Sanogo, a university student who was lining up to cast her ballot for Tiebil Drame, a schoolteacher and one of Toure's former Cabinet members whose slogan promises change for Mali.
Mali _ which stretches from the dunes of the Sahara Desert in the north to the cotton fields of the temperate south _ slid into dictatorship after gaining independence from France in 1960, but a 1991 coup led to elections the following year. Mali's then-president stepped down after the maximum two-term limit and Toure was elected in a peaceful 2002 vote.
Of the seven candidates running in the opposition, the president of the National Assembly, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is widely considered Toure's most serious rival.
Toure, 59, is backed by a coalition of 43 political parties under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress, or ADP.
Mali has 6.9 million registered voters and candidates need to garner 51 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0800 GMT) and are expected to begin closing at 6 p.m. (1800 GMT). Election results could take days to be released.


Updated : 2021-07-29 14:39 GMT+08:00