Malian presidential candidate Soumalia Cisse has conceded defeat to his opponent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The election was declared by EU and US observers to have been "credible and transparent."
Cisse congratulated his rival for the presidency late on Monday, in a concession viewed as helpful in restoring stability to the conflict-torn country.
"My family and I went and congratulated Mr Keita, the future president of Mali, on his victory. May God bless Mali," said Cisse, a former finance minister, on his official Twitter feed.
Keita had been expected to win the Sunday vote easily, after pulling 39.34 percent of the votes in the first round of the election last month. The local broadcasters Radio Kedu and Radio Dambe both reported that, this time around, Keita again had been well ahead of Cisse - who polled 19.44 percent in the first vote.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita wants to be Mali's new head of state. He has already tried twice, unsuccessfully. But now, his chances at winning the presidential runoff election on August 11, 2013, are better than ever. (11.08.2013)
Keita - also widely known as IBK - had received the backing of 22 of the 25 candidates who lost out in the first round. A two-headed election contest was made necessary because Keita had not received an absolute majority.
'An important stage'
Observers and diplomats expressed hope that the result would allow Keita a strong mandate to negotiate a lasting peace with Tuareg separatist rebels in the north. "This was an important stage in the transition in Mali towards peace and reconciliation," said UN Special Representative, Bert Koenders. "There were small imperfections ...but the lack of violence was impressive in a country which has just emerged from conflict."
There had been fears that attacks on polling stations might take place after threats were issued by the Islamist group Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). MUJWA was one of the three Islamist groups that took over the north of the country last year, having seized control of an insurgency against the south that had initially been led by the Tuaregs. The Islamists imposed strict Shariah law across the region.
'Some small irregularities'
Cisse's concession came despite his earlier comments on Monday that the vote had been marred by fraud and intimidation.
International observers said that, despite small irregularities, the electoral process had been credible. "This election, from a democratic standards point of view, is a success," said the head of the European Union's observer mission, Louis Michel. Out of 831 polling stations that the EU observers had monitored, Michel said that 99 percent had been positively evaluated.
Meanwhile, the United States applauded the "large turnout," congratulating the transitional government for having provided a "peaceful and orderly environment" for the vote. - rc/jm (AFP, Reuters)