Mali goes to polls after five years of jihad, insecurity

BAMAKO - Malian voters were due to decide on Sunday on whether or not to give President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita a second term, despite widespread ethnic and jihadist violence that has dramatically worsened since he came to power five years ago.

Two dozen other candidates are contesting the presidency in a largely Saharan desert nation that has been fractured by a Tuareg rebellion and Islamist militancy across its north and central zones since the last poll in 2013.

Insecurity is such that in some parts of the country the vote will simply not happen, and the European Union observer mission urged the government on Saturday to publish a list of places that will be unable to vote, so as to quell suspicions by candidates of "fictitious polling stations."

"These are polling stations in which we know insecurity ... won't make the vote possible there," EU mission head Cecile Kyenge told journalists on Saturday.

Eight million voters are enrolled. Polls open at 8 a.m. (0800 GMT) and close at 6 p.m. (1800 GMT). Opposition candidates include businessmen, an astrophysicist, and just one woman.

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