Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won Mali's presidency after his opponent conceded defeat in an election aimed at restoring stability to a country wracked by a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency.
Soumaila Cissé's concession averts a protracted election fight, allowing Mali to move ahead with establishing a democratically elected government, one of the international community's caveats for unlocking some $4 billion in promised aid.
Keita, who is known by his initials "IBK," had been expected to win the runoff easily, having pulled nearly 40 per cent of the vote in the first round. Most of the other candidates from the first round had given their endorsements to Keita, who has had a long career in Malian government.
Cissé paid a visit to Keita's home late Monday along with his wife and family. In an exchange broadcast on the private Malian television station Africable, Cissé told Keita he had come "to congratulate you and wish you all the success you deserve; a success for our country so that you can have the strength to take up the enormous challenges that await you."
"That is a symbol of the new Mali," Keita later told Africable, adding: "I am full of emotion."
Voters see Cissé's concession as a sign of unity between Mali politicians
The election was critical to unlocking $4 billion in aid A democratically elected government is one of the conditions set by the international community, and a transitional government has been in place since not long after a coup in March 2012.
Rebellion in the north
In the north, secular Tuareg separatist rebels still pose a threat to regional stability. Talks with the rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad are due to begin within 60 days of the formation of Keita's government and many Malians remain wary of negotiating with the group whose rebellion sparked more than a year of chaos in what was once one of West Africa's most stable democracies.
In the aftermath of the government's overthrow in 2012, separatist Tuareg rebels and later al-Qaeda-linked militants seized control of northern Mali's towns. The radical jihadists imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
The Malian military has been able to regain control over the northern towns of Gao and Timbuktu though its presence remains highly controversial in Kidal.
Nearly 200,000 Malians remain in refugee camps in neighbouring Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and an untold number of others are still living in the southern capital of Bamako instead of returning home to the north.