Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won Mali’s presidential runoff with 78 per cent of the vote, the government has said, giving him a strong mandate to seek peace with northern separatists and for sweeping reforms to the army after a military coup.
Sunday’s vote marked a transition back to democratic rule after the March 2012 coup plunged Mali into turmoil, allowing Islamist insurgents to seize the desert north. A French-led military intervention in January liberated the region.
Former Prime Minister Keita, whose rival Soumaila Cisse had already admitted defeat on Monday, has said his first priority will be to forge a lasting peace in northern Mali with Tuareg separatist rebels.
Many in the country’s populous south, however, are strongly opposed to ceding more autonomy and funds to the northerners, who they blame for the country’s current crisis.
Keita also faces huge challenges in reforming the military, tackling widespread corruption and reviving the country’s ailing economy. His hand will be strengthened by €3.25bn ($4.31bn) in reconstruction aid pledged at a conference in Brussels in May.
“This vote shows that Keita is loved by the people. Now he is the master of his own destiny. He can do what he wants and choose the team that he wants,” said Mariam Diallo, a political campaigner and analyst in Bamako. “But he must be careful not to disappoint the people.”