BAMAKO, July 28 (Xinhua) -- The first round of Mali's presidential elections ended in calm late Sunday.
The vote opened at 8:00 a.m. (0800 GMT) and closed at 6:00 p.m. (1800 GMT), without reports of incidents despite hasty preparations and threats by remnants of rebels to launch attacks in the newly restored northern part.
Election officials expect more than 6.87 million voters to cast their ballots at the 25,000 polling stations both at home and abroad.
A run-off would be held on Aug. 11, if none of the 27 candidates could obtain an absolute majority of votes in the first round.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of the Rally for Mali (RPM) party, also the former prime minister, told a press conference after casting his ballot that whatever the results, he would accept the outcome.
The Malian people "seem so happy," he said, describing the election as "a fete of democracy."
He expressed confidence in winning the race, in which other leading candidates include Soumaila Cisse of the URD, Modibo Sidibe of the FARE and Dramane Dembele of the ADEMA.
Aichata Cisse Haidara is the only female candidate in the polls where she vowed to improve conditions for women and youths if elected.
Security has been tight in the day with more than 4, 500 police officers, national guards, gendarmerie and special forces mobilized to make the polls a success, according to the authorities.
Mali's former colonial power France has yet to pull out thousands of its troops from the West African country after the military intervention launched in early January. In addition, thousands more troops from African countries on a UN mission MINUSMA have been deployed for months in Mali to help restore law and order.
To ensure a transparent and fair vote, more than 1,000 observers were deployed to monitor the electoral process, including 250 officials from the West African bloc ECOWAS and 50 others from the African Union.
The vote came in the culmination of the election campaigns launched on July 7, when many doubted about whether or not the vote could be held on schedule.
Mali's Interim President Dioncounda Traore, however, insisted on the election calendar, saying it was the best way to swiftly move his country out of the crisis.
The country was hit by a coup on March 22, 2012, when the military junta ousted elected president Amadou Toumani Toure.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Tuareg separatist group, took the advantage of the coup to sweep through the northern part and declared an "independent" state, which has never been internationally recognized.
The coup also consolidated foothold of Al-Qaida's North African branch AQIM and the other Islamist groups of MUJAO and Ansar Dine, which soon marginalized the influence of the MNLA in northern Mali.
France sent in its troops in January amid southward advances by northern rebels before other African countries joined in to restore Mali's territorial integrity and constitutional rule.
The MNLA is the only rebel group maintaining its presence in northern Mali since AQIM, MUJAO and Ansar Dine were routed out in the region in January.
The MNLA signed a preliminary peace agreement with the government in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on June 18, which provides that the MNLA fighters will be placed in camps in Kidal, from where they will be disarmed under the supervision of the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Mission for Stabilization of Mali (MINUSMA).
But tensions have been occasionally reported between the group and the Mali army and local black population since the truce was signed.