Mali 50% poll turnout 'significant'

2013-07-29 20:44

Bamako - The turnout in Mali's landmark presidential election was around 50%, the European Union's top observer said on Monday, putting paid to pessimism over the vote's viability.

A good turnout on Sunday among Mali's electorate of seven million had been seen as essential to assuaging grave doubts over whether the outcome would be accepted across the diverse nation's numerous ethnic communities.

"There was a particularly significant turnout, around 50%, according to preliminary estimates we have been given," Louis Michel told reporters in the capital Bamako, recalling that the rate in the 2007 presidential election had been below 40%.

"There was a real passion among people who became aware of what was at stake and the importance of their vote," he said.

He said a peaceful poll, marked by "remarkable transparency", had taken place in "excellent conditions".

The election was seen as crucial to reuniting a country riven by conflict during an 18-month political crisis that saw French forces intervene in January to push out Islamist rebels who had seized the north.

But renewed violence in the vast west African nation's northern desert had cast serious doubt over its readiness to deliver a safe election and a result beyond dispute in a country where 500 000 people have been displaced by conflict.

Michel, a Belgian former foreign minister and erstwhile EU commissioner, said there were no major incidents during voting that could undermine the credibility of the result.

He acknowledged that before Sunday "we were all a little afraid it could slide out of control".

"Hats off to Mali for what they did yesterday," Michel said, describing the vote as a "successful first step towards a return to democratic renewal".