July 31 - Officials say the former Malian Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita holds a comfortable lead and could win an outright first-round victory in the West African nation's high-stakes presidential election. Sarah Toms reports.
Joy on the streets of Bamako, Mali's capital, minutes after officials announced that former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita holds a commanding lead in presidential elections. (UPSOT) Officials said Keita could win an outright first-round victory if he maintains his lead. But no exact figures were given. (SOUNDBITE) (French) COLONEL MOUSSA SINKO COULIBALY MALI'S MINISTER OF TERRITORIAL ADMINISTRATION, SAYING: At this stage some tendencies are showing. There is one candidate, notably candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita who has a a wide margin compared with the other candidates. The gaps are important. If these gaps are confirmed there will not be a second round" Residents said they voted for change after a northern rebellion and coup that led to foreign military intervention. (SOUNDBITE) (French) MAMADOU CISSOKO, TEACHER SAYING "The partial results clearly show what the people of Mali are pre-occupied with. Because after 20 years of dreadful mismanagement it is not surprising the people are fed up and need change. That is how to explain this result. Keita's rivals for the presidency have rejected the preliminary results and insist it is too early to declare Keita a winner. Whoever wins the election will have to unite the country and conclude peace talks with armed separatist rebels.