Mali election: Campaigning ends ahead of second round

Campaign posters in Bamako
Image caption Posters in support of both men are emblazoned across Bamako

Campaigning has ended across Mali ahead of Sunday's presidential election run-off.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and ex-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse will contest the second round.

The election is intended to restore democracy and stability after months of unrest.

France sent more than 4,000 troops in January to regain control of northern towns and cities from al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Insurgents had seized the north of the country during a military coup.

According to official figures, Mr Keita secured 39.2% of the vote cast in last month's first round ahead of Mr Cisse who took 19.4%.

However, Mr Cisse remained optimistic about his presidential bid.

"I am confident, because it is not about adding to the votes from the first round, there will be new votes, it is a new election," he told AFP news agency.

"Everything restarts from zero."

Mr Keita - widely known as IBK - has urged voters to give him a "clear and clean" majority in the second round.

"Given the results from the first round, there is a good chance that they would be confirmed in the second," he told reporters.

"My first priority would be the reconciliation of the country. After the trauma that it has suffered, a new start is needed," he said.

With the end of campaigning coinciding with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, both candidates cancelled their main political rallies.

Correspondents say supporters of both men instead drove around the capital Bamako, honking car horns and waving posters.

A UN peacekeeping force was deployed to Mali in July ahead of the elections, as France began to withdraw its troops from its former colony and the army pledged support for the restoration of democratic rule.

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