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Ex-Malian premier Keita takes lead in presidential election

Former Malian Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has polled the largest number of votes among candidates for the country’s presidency. However, he now faces a runoff vote after failing to secure a majority.

Figures announced on live television in Mali on Friday showed that former premier Keita was in the lead, receiving 39.24 percent of the vote - well short of an outright majority.

Keita's main rival, former Finance Minister Soumailia Cisse, who is also an ex-premier, was in second place, with 19.44 percent.

Meanwhile, Dramane Dembele, the candidate for Mali's biggest political party, the Alliance For Democracy in Mali, emerged in third place, with just over 9.6 percent.

Interior minister Moussa Sinko Coulibaly had said earlier in the week that the preliminary counting indicated there would be no need for a second round of voting. On Wednesday, a spokesman for Cisse called for Coulibaly to produce the exact figures and to resign, claiming that the election had been marred by ballot stuffing.

Cisse had said he would reject the election result if there were no second round of voting. That round, to take place on August 11, can only now go ahead once approved by Mali's Constitutional Court.

The election roster had featured 27 candidates, although experts have long deemed the election as essentially being a two-horse race between Cisse and Keita.

A record 51.54 percent of voters took part in the Sunday ballot, which is seen as crucial to restoring stability in the country after 18 months of political turmoil and armed combat between government forces, Islamist insurgents and Tuareg rebels.

Previous turnout in Malian elections had never hit the 40 percent mark.

rc/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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