BAMAKO (Reuters) - Attacks by gunmen or other violence disrupted around a fifth of Mali’s polling stations during Sunday’s presidential election, with about three percent unable to function at all, the Ministry of Territorial Administration said on Monday.
Of the roughly 23,000 polling stations open, 4,632 were disrupted by “armed attacks or other violence”, of which 644 were unable to operate, ministry figures showed.
Spiralling jihadist violence has become a key issue in the campaign of several opposition candidates competing with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, as attacks multiply and the death toll mounts across north and central Mali.
Al Qaeda’s franchise in the Sahara claimed a mortar attack on village of Aguelhok in the northern region of Kidal during the election.
In that attack, militants fired 10 mortar rounds, one of which exploded about 100 metres (yards) from a polling station, causing voting to be temporarily suspended.
In most of Mali, the vote was peaceful, but the number of disenfranchised voters could become a flash point if the result is very close.
“My family just told me they couldn’t go and vote because of insecurity in (central) Motpi region. Things didn’t go well,” said Issamadou Sagra, who is from Koro, in the Mopti region, but who lives and voted in the capital Bamako.
“We are now worried about the final results ... they might not be reliable.”
Counting is under way but results may not come out for another day or even longer. Candidates are forbidden from making announcements before the official tally is collated centrally in Bamako.
The party of Keita’s main challenger Soumaila Cisse has already complained about voting being disrupted because of insecurity and had pressed the government to release a list of the places that had problems.
Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by Aaron Ross, William Maclean