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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Mali votes for new president
Queue at polling station
There were some delays at polling stations
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By the BBC's Joan Baxter
Bamako
line
The people of Mali have been voting in presidential elections, with results expected by Tuesday.

The outgoing president, Alpha Omar Konare, who is standing down after a decade in office, hailed the vote as a great day for Mali.

President Alpha Oumar Konare and his wife voting in Bamako
President Konare said it was a great day for Mali
He is not allowed to seek re-election under the country's constitution.

Voters braved searing temperatures and long queues to cast their ballots and there were few reports of problems, although a shortage of ballot papers caused some delays.

There are 24 candidates standing, and if no candidate wins outright, the top two candidates will go through to a second round of voting.

"For the first time in Mali, we are witnessing the departure, through the ballot box, of an elected president - this is one of the rules of democracy," the president said after voting in the capital, Bamako.

Foreign observers said that the poll had gone smoothly.

"I'm impressed that the staff in the polling stations have managed to cope with the problems," said one.

Frontrunners

There are generally thought to be three leading candidates.

Two of them are former top ministers who have spent a long time in Mali's political establishment, Ibrahim Boubaacar Keita and Soumaila Cisse.

Amadou Toumani Toure
ATT is one of the leading candidates
The third main contender is a former military man, Amadou Toumani Toure, who is universally known by his initials ATT.

ATT turned himself into a popular hero in the early 1990s when he helped overthrow the single ruling party of the day and ushered in Mali's multi-party democracy.

About 5.7 million voters are registered in the country, where the average income is only $240 a year.

In the 1997 election, the vote was annulled after complaints about the electoral role.

When the election was rerun, all but one of President Konare's opponents boycotted the poll.

See also:

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