Vote counting began in Mali on Sunday evening after an election to determine whether President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will win a second term, amid ethnic and jihadist violence that has dramatically worsened since he came to power five years ago.
Two dozen other candidates were contesting the presidency in a largely Saharan desert nation that has been fractured by a Tuareg rebellion and Islamist militancy across its north and central zones since the last poll in 2013.
Insecurity is such that in some parts of Mali, the vote simply did not happen, and the European Union observer mission urged the government on Saturday to publish a list of places that would be unable to vote, to quell suspicions by candidates of “fictitious polling stations”.
Voting was briefly suspended at a polling station in the village of Aguelhok in the northern region of Kidal after militants fired about 10 mortar bombs, said U.N. mission spokesman Olivier Salgado. No one was hurt. The attack was the kind that has become routine in Mali in the months leading up to the vote.
“One mortar landed around 100 meters from a polling station so there was a bit of panic,” Salgado said.
Eight million people were registered to vote. The candidates included businessmen, an astrophysicist, and just one woman.
Counting started in the riverside capital Bamako soon after polls closed at 6 p.m. (1800 GMT). In one polling station at a school, officials were already tallying votes on a blackboard.