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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Thousands of Mali votes cancelled
 Mali's Constitutional Court members deliver the final results of the presidential poll
Finally the suspense is over ten days after the poll
Mali's Constitutional Court has cancelled 541,000 votes cast in last month's presidential election but this has not changed the overall results.

With 2.2m people voting, this represents almost 25% of all ballot papers.

First round results
Amadou Toumani Toure: 28.70%
Soumaila Cisse: 21.30%
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita: 21.03%
Nullified votes: 541,000
Votes cast: 2.2m
Electorate: 5.7m
Former military leader Amadou Toumani Toure will go to a run-off against ruling party candidate Soumaila Cisse next Sunday, as indicated by provisional results released by the interior ministry.

The announcement came amid mounting tension in Mali over the results of last month's disputed presidential election.

Mr Toure won 28.70 29%, compared to Mr Cisse's 21.30%, down from the 23% he had been given in provisional results released by the interior ministry.

Third-placed Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister backed by Mali's Muslim leaders, got 21.03% - just 4,000 votes behind the all-important second place.

Mr Keita, and several other candidates, have alleged "massive fraud" during the counting - notably in favour of Mr Cisse from the Adema party.

'Irregularities'

The court said the votes were cancelled due to indications of fraud and other irregularities.

After these nullifications, just 26% of those eligible cast a valid vote.

Outgoing President Alpha Oumar Konare is stepping aside after serving a maximum two five-year terms.

Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Keita has alleged 'grotesque' fraud

The Constitutional Court, whose rulings are final, cited several irregularities in the polling, but court president Abdourahmane Baba Toure said they did not warrant annulling the results.

Mr Keita had called for the annulment of the vote after the release of provisional results last week.

On Wednesday, the US-based Carter Center criticized the first-round vote, citing a "significant number of irregularities."

The centre led by former US president Jimmy Carter issued a "preliminary statement" in Dakar and cited "a significant number of logistical and administrative irregularities" in the polling, and complained that the Carter Center observers were denied access to the counting for nearly two days, and that permission was finally granted in "an arbitrary and ad hoc manner."

Although Mali is often cited abroad as a model of democracy, the 1997 presidential election was cancelled after wide-scale problems in voter card distribution and the election register.

A new poll was held, but it was largely boycotted by the opposition.

Mr Konare steps down with a track record more democratic than those of many of his peers on the African continent, but many Malians are critical of his performance in a country where poverty and hunger is still rife.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Joan Baxter reporting for BBC Focus on Africa
"These final results came as no big surprise"
See also:

07 May 02 | Africa
Mali court reviews 'vote-rigging'
28 Apr 02 | Africa
Mali votes for new president
15 Apr 02 | Africa
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