FACTBOX-Mali presidential vote pits nationalist Keita against technocrat Cisse

by Reuters
Friday, 9 August 2013 16:19 GMT

A man rides a bicycle past electoral campaign posters in Bamako August 9, 2013. Mali will hold a second round run-off presidential election between former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known as IBK, and ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse on Sunday. REUTERS/Joe Penney

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BAMAKO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Mali holds the second-round of its presidential election on Sunday after more than a year of turmoil including a coup and a French-led military intervention to free the north from al Qaeda-allied Islamist rebels.

Here are some details on the two candidates.

- Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Universally known as IBK, Keita won the first round with nearly 40 percent of the vote. He is the political heavyweight in the race, having served as foreign minister, head of the National Assembly and prime minister.

IBK has campaigned on pledges to restore Mali's honour. Having stood up to strikes and student protests when he was prime minister, he has a reputation for firmness that many Malians believe is needed to restore the rule of law across the divided nation.

A nationalist with a popular touch, Keita has avoided strongly criticising the leaders of a March 2012 coup which toppled former President Amadou Toumani Toure, amid widespread frustration at his government's corruption and failure to tackle poverty. He withdrew his RPM party from an anti-junta coalition in May 2012, saying that the handling of the Mali crisis had infringed upon national sovereignty.

He has pledged 'zero tolerance' for corruption - echoing the words of coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo.

Born in Koutiala in southern Mali, Keita hails from the majority Bambara ethnic group and draws most of his support in the populous south, particularly the capital Bamako. He has also secured the backing of influential moderate Islamic leaders in the Muslim country.

After studying political science and international relations at Paris' Sorbonne University, he taught at university and worked for NGOs in France before returning to Mali in 1986 to join the underground pro-democracy movement against military strongman Moussa Traore.

A founding member of the ADEMA party, historically Mali's largest, Keita befriended Alpha Oumar Konare, who was elected president after Traore was toppled in a 1991 coup. Konare then promoted him steadily from ambassador to Ivory Coast, to foreign minister and ultimately prime minister, a post he held from 1994 to 2000.

Keita quit ADEMA to found his own party, finishing third in the 2002 presidential election won by Toure, the president who was ousted a decade later.

IBK served as president of the National Assembly for five years before becoming an outspoken opponent of a 2006 peace deal with Tuareg separatists that partly demilitarised northern Mali, which critics said contributed to the current crisis. He was Toure's main opponent in the 2007 elections, winning 19 percent of the vote.

- Soumaila Cisse

A native of Timbuktu region and a software engineer by training, Cisse was a top presidency official and served as a minister for much of the 1990s, including a stint in charge of the finance portfolio.

Having failed to secure the ADEMA party candidacy in a 2002 election, he set up his own party, the URD. But he subsequently spent seven years in charge of the West African monetary union, based in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Cisse has earned respect as an economist although he has not escaped accusations of mismanagement and was accused of corruption by the military junta that seized power in the March 2012 coup. He has stridently condemned the coup as anti-democratic and his party form part of the anti-junta coalition (FDR).

Raised near the desert town of Timbuktu, Cisse gains much of his support from the north and has failed to challenge Keita's supremacy in Bamako and the south.

(Reporting by Daniel Flynn and David Lewis; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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