At one station, Youssouf Coulibaly chewed on cola nuts as he escaped the rain by waiting in a hallway for his turn to vote, accompanied by six family members.
Since Mali’s crisis began, Coulibaly said he has found it more difficult to sell his traditional medicines. Food has become more expensive and the 67-year-old and his family are now just eking by.
“Today everyone agrees that the man for the job is Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who can bring us security and peace because he’s the one who can stand up to the Tuareg rebels who have put the country in this situation.”
“We are tired of this crisis and of the insecurity we have been living with,” echoed Amara Traore, 65, whose orange boubou lit up the line of voters waiting for their polling stations to open early Sunday.
Many voters in the south blame the Tuareg separatists for unleashing the ruinous chaos because it was their rebellion that provoked the soldiers behind the coup in March 2012. In the aftermath, the al-Qaida-linked extremists took hold across the north and began imposing a harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law that meted out public amputations and whippings.
The jihadists fled the north’s major towns after a French-led military operation was launched in January.
Sunday’s presidential runoff vote is aimed at unlocking some $4 billion in aid that has been promised to help Mali recover from the political crisis that also decimated its tourism industry. The funds, though, are contingent on a democratically elected government being in place to replace the interim leaders.
Keita has run on a campaign of restoring Mali’s honor and dignity.
Cisse’s supporters, though, say their candidate has more concrete ideas for creating jobs and revitalizing the Malian economy. “Cisse’s plans are more detailed and more coherent. That’s why I’m voting for him,” said Oumar Couilbaly, 28, of Bamako.
Cisse said Sunday he would respect the outcome of the runoff vote after finishing second in the first round. “I have submitted myself to the verdict of the ballot box long before today,” he told journalists as he cast his own ballot.