By Paul Melly, 25 July 2013
The people of Mali will go to the polls on 28 July in the first round of a presidential election that is an important step towards the restoration of democratic civilian rule.
Candidates have been touring the country. Of the 27 contenders, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Soumaïla Cissé are tipped as favourites, but several others have a serious chance; and the race includes Mali’s first two female presidential aspirants, Oumar Sall Seck and Aïdara Aïssata Cissé. The contest will probably go to an August run-off between the two strongest performers.
Sixteen months after jihadist armed groups swept the demoralized national army out of the north, and barely six months since French and African troops reversed that humiliation, this election is a critical test.