Former Mali Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has stolen a substantial march in the western African nation's presidential election. With around a third of the votes counted by Tuesday, Keita holds a "wide lead."
Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, told journalists Tuesday that the "differences were significant" in the votes won by Keita, 69, and those cast for his opponents.
Of the 26 other candidates in the running for the presidency, only former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, 63, was considered a serious threat to the frontrunner Keita.
But the numbers are such that Coulibaly believes a second round of voting - scheduled for August 11 - may not be necessary. The results of Sunday's election must be announced by the end of Friday.
"After one third of votes counted, one candidate, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, has a wide margin compared with the other candidates," Coulibaly said in the capital Bamako. "If maintained, there will not be a need for a second round."
While voting so far has been peaceful, Keita's rivals have already announced they will challenge the results should the election not go to a second round.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current head of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), urged the candidates for the presidency to accept the voters' choice.
"Of course, we are all waiting for the decision of the Malian people ... and I think that all the candidates will accept the results of the ballot box," Ouattara told reporters.
Coulibaly, whose ministry is in charge of organizing elections, said voter turnout nationwide was 53.5 percent.
It is the first election since a March 2012 coup saw democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure deposed and separatist rebels control the desert north for 10 months.
French troops intervened to restore order, scattering the insurgents into the mountains.
- AFP, Reuters