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Keita Wins Mali Election after Cisse Concedes

BAMAKO, Aug 13 2013 - Mali’s presidential election has been won by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after his rival conceded defeat in the second-round runoff.

Ex-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse said he had congratulated his rival Keita on winning the vote and wished him good luck,  news agencies had reported on Monday.

Cisse’s concession, hours after he complained the election had been marred by fraud, will deepen optimism for Mali’s recovery.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from outside Keita’s headquarters in Bamako as the news of his win came in, said there seemed to be celebrations already taking place as some international observers were seen congratulating Keita.

“The general feeling here is that people are actually happy that this has come to a peaceful end, and that Mali finally has a president,” he said.

Keita, a former prime minister, inherits a broken nation and must still negotiate peace with northern rebels.

No official results have yet been released following Sunday’s runoff, but reports put Keita well ahead.

Keita had been widely expected to win Sunday’s vote, having swept the July 28 first round with nearly 40 percent of votes on a ticket to restore order after a March 2012 military coup allowed separatist rebels to seize control of the northern two-thirds of Mali.

Cisse said earlier on Monday that the vote had been tainted by intimidation. However, international and local observers said that, despite small irregularities, the process had been credible.

‘Important stage’

“This election, from a democratic standards point of view, is a success,” said the head of a EU observer mission, Louis Michel.

“It is an election that allows Mali now to start finishing the process that it has begun: the return to a normal democracy,” he added.

France sent thousands of troops in January to break rebels’ grip on northern Mali.

Paris now aims to pull out its contingent to a rapid response team of 1,000 troops to face the scattered threat, while handing broader security duties to a 12,600-strong UN peacekeeping mission being deployed.

Keita received the backing of 22 of the 25 losing first round candidates.

Diplomats now hope a clean election will give him a strong mandate to negotiate a lasting peace with northern Tuareg separatists, reform the army and tackle deep-rooted corruption.

“This was an important stage in the transition in Mali towards peace and reconciliation,” UN Special Representative for Mali Bert Koenders said.

“There were small imperfections … but the lack of violence was impressive in a country which has just emerged from conflict.”

Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

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