BAMAKO, Mali — Mali's parliamentary polls have been "another success" following the peaceful election of the country's president in August, the European Union (EU) observation mission said on Monday, calling for a big turnout if a second round is required.
Mission chief Louis Michel paid tribute to "the success of the organization of elections, particularly with regard to the logistical, material and human conditions that prevailed during voting operations".
Sunday's polls marked Mali's first steps to recovery after it was plunged into chaos by a military coup in March last year, and finalized a process begun with the election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August.
But voters were prevented from taking part by Tuareg separatist protesters in a northeastern town of around 14,000 people, while there were demonstrations in the northern rebel stronghold of Kidal and reports of ballot box thefts elsewhere.
Michel said the election "took place peacefully, despite some small-scale incidents in the north which are not likely to jeopardize the integrity of the vote."
Some 6.5 million Malians were eligible to cast ballots for a new 147-member national assembly but turnout is thought to have paled compared with the presidential election, in which 50 percent of the electorate voted.
A second round will take place on December 15 if no party is able to form a government following Sunday's vote.
"A presidential election may be different in nature from a parliamentary election, but I would still appeal to political parties, candidates and citizens to use the second round to further strengthen democratic rebuilding," Michel said. "I urge all political actors to mobilize on December 15. Voting is not only a right, it is a moral duty, especially in the context of Mali."
One hundred EU observers visited 789 out of 17,983 polling stations, reporting that voting went well in almost all of them.
This was despite fears that al-Qaida-linked militants driven from the towns and cities of northern Mali by a French-led military operation launched in January would use the election to launch violent reprisals.
Amos Sawyer, the head of 100-strong ECOWAS mission, which had observers in every region, commended Malians for their "orderly conduct" during balloting.
"The electoral process . . . has been orderly, security and the general atmosphere is fine and the preparation has been very good," Sawyer said after observing the elections in several voting centers in Bamako.
But ECOWAS also noted poor turnout, saying in a statement around a tenth of registered voters had cast their ballots by midday at two polling stations Sawyer visited and that the rate had risen to just 16.5 percent by the close in another.