Profiles: Mali presidential contenders

No fewer than 27 candidates - including a lone woman - have joined the fray in Mali's first presidential election since the March 2012 coup that threw the country into chaos.

Reliable polling data is thin on the ground, but a handful of candidates - four former prime ministers, one former finance minister and Mali's former chief geologist - are widely seen as having the best chances because of their prominent backgrounds and political ties.

The incumbent president, Dioncounda Traore, is barred from standing.

All the candidates have similar policies: Restoring stability and national unity, reviving trust in Mali's battered state institutions, fighting corruption and stimulating growth.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita campaigning on 7 July in Bamako Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has called for a hard-line policy towards northern rebels

A victory for veteran politician Ibrahim Boubacar Keita - known as "IBK" - would be third-time lucky for the man who unsuccessfully stood for the presidency in 2002 and 2007.

In 2007, he lost by a landslide to Amadou Toumani Toure, the president toppled in the March 2012 military coup. Mr Keita served as prime minister from 1994 to 2000 and president of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2007.

Standing for the Rally for Mali (RPM) party - which he founded in 2001 - under the slogan "For Mali's honour", he advocates a tough approach to Islamist and Tuareg separatist rebels in the north, and has promised to root out corruption.

His supporters refer to him as "Kankeletegui", which mean "a man of his word" in the Bambara language.

Soumaila Cisse

Soumaila Cisse pictured on 18 January 2013 in Dakar Soumaila Cisse was attacked by pro-coup soldiers in 2012

Another candidate with a long political track record, Soumaila Cisse, 63, is a declared opponent of the military junta that seized power in 2012.

Originally a software engineer by training, he served in a number of key roles - including seven years as finance minister - under President Alpha Oumar Konare in the 1990s, before heading the West African Monetary Union from 2004-2011. He came second to Amadou Toumani Toure in Mali's 2002 presidential election.

In 2012, he fled Bamako after being attacked by soldiers loyal to coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo.

He formed his Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party in 2003 as a breakaway from the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adema), Mali's largest party. He promises to foster growth and consolidate Mali's fragile institutions, and has called for the junta to be "deleted" from politics.

Soumana Sako

Soumana Sako at a public gathering on 12 March 2011, in a picture from his campaign website Soumana Sako has worked in international development

This is Soumana Sako's first full run at the presidency after he nearly stood in 1997 but pulled out, alleging widespread fraud.

Serving as finance minister in the 1980s, he went on to become prime minister in the 1991-2 transitional government installed after the ousting of military strongman Lt Moussa Traore. He supported President Amadou Toumani Toure in the 2002 and 2007 elections.

An economist by profession, Mr Sako, 64, has worked with the UN and other international development agencies. His party is the National Convention for a United Africa (CNAS).

Modibo Sidibe

Modibo Sidibe campaigning in Bamako on 19 July 2013 Modibo Sidibe is a supporter of deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure

Another former prime minister and finance minister, Modibo Sidibe, 60, is close to ousted President Toure.

He was a key aide to the president, as well as his prime minister from 2007-11.

Because of his loyalties, he was briefly arrested following the 2012 coup.

His party is the Alternative Forces for Renewal and Emergence (Fare). He is a policeman and lawyer by training.

Cheick Modibo Diarra

Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra speaking after a meeting with the president of Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou on 17 July 2012 Former PM Modibo Diarra is a trained astrophysicist

The most recent former prime minister in the race, Modibo Diarra, 61, was appointed to head a national unity government by Interim President Dioncounda Traore in April 2012, as part of a stated return to civilian rule.

But he resigned six months later when military leaders were angered by Mr Diarra's support for armed intervention to restore stability by regional body Ecowas.

He trained as astrophysicist, and held jobs as a Nasa interplanetary navigator. In 2006, he became head of Microsoft Africa.

His slogan is "New ideas, new jobs and fresh hope for Mali", and his party is the Rally for Development of Mali (RPDM).

Dramane Dembele

Dramane Dembele pictured on his campaign website Dramane Dembele is one of the younger candidates

A geologist by training and relatively young, Dramane Dembele, 46, is seen as something as a political outsider, but also as an up-and-coming contender.

He is the candidate of Mali's largest and most well-established party, Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adema), but it has been deeply divided for decades, potentially weakening his political strength.

The choice of Mr Dembele is has been presented as an attempt to inject "new blood" into Malian politics.

Before entering politics, he held the post of national director of geology and mines.

Other candidates

The only woman candidate, Aichata Chada Haidara, 54, is a National Assembly member from Mali's north, and won nationwide recognition for her outspoken opposition to the Islamist militants who occupied the region until a French military intervention earlier this year. Bamako mayor Moussa Mara, 38, and Housseini Amion Guindo, 43, the owner of a football club and former deputy head of Mali's football federation, are seen as rising political stars. Niankoro Yeah Samake, 44, has attracted media attention in the US because of his membership in the Mormon church.

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