Former PM Keita wins Mali election
Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has won Mali's presidency after his opponent conceded defeat in an election aimed at restoring stability to a country wracked by a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency.
Soumalia Cisse's concession averts a protracted election fight, allowing Mali to move ahead with establishing a democratically elected government, one of the international community's caveats for unlocking some four billion US dollars (£2.6 billion) in promised aid.
Mr Keita, 68, had been expected to win the run-off easily, having pulled nearly 40% of the vote in the first round. Most of the other candidates from the first round had also given their endorsements to Mr Keita, who has had a long career in Malian government.
Official results have not been announced, but Mr Cisse confirmed he had conceded defeat in a message on his official Twitter account.
"My family and I went to the house of Mr. Keita, future president of Mali, to congratulate him on his victory," read the statement.
Earlier in the day some of Mr Cisse's supporters had raised allegations of ballot stuffing against Mr Keita's party, raising the spectre of a legal battle.
Mr Keita ran for the presidency in the two previous elections of 2002 and 2007. He also served as foreign minister and National Assembly speaker during his long tenure in Malian government.
During his campaign, he ran on a pledge of restoring honour to the country ravaged by an Islamic insurgency that overtook the northern half of the country until French forces arrived in January to oust them from power. Many voters said they had chosen Mr Cisse because they thought he could best resolve the crisis in the north, where secular separatist rebels still pose a threat to regional stability.
Talks with the rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) are due to begin within 60 days of the formation of Mr Keita's government and many Malians remain wary of negotiating with the group whose rebellion sparked more than a year of chaos in what was once one of West Africa's most stable democracies.
"Malians should be congratulated because it seems to me they are regaining control of their democratic destiny, which is in fact nevertheless a tradition that exists in Mali," said Louis Michel, the head of the EU observer mission.