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Presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita secured 39.24 per cent of the vote in the July 28 poll. The run-off vote will take place Aug. 11. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

The former prime minister of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, came first in the country's presidential election but will face ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse in a run-off after he failed to secure an outright majority, the government said on Friday.

According to provisional results, Keita secured 39.24 per cent of the vote in the July 28 poll, well ahead of Cisse on 19.44 per cent, said Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, minister of territorial administration.

Mali's Constitutional Court must confirm the provisional results before the second round vote can go ahead on Aug. 11.

The announcement of a run-off should ease tensions that have risen since Tuesday when partial results gave Keita a large lead, putting him on track for an outright victory in one round.

Cisse said he would reject the election result if there were no second round of voting.

A record 51.54 per cent of registered voters took part in the high-stakes ballot, which is meant to give the West African nation a fresh start after 18 months of political turmoil and war.

Turnout in Mali's previous elections had never hit the 40 per cent mark.

Military coup in 2012

The July 11th vote  was the first since a military coup in March 2012 that has left the country leaderless and racked by violence for more than a year.

French forces intervened in January to defeat the al Qaeda-linked fighters, whose threats to disrupt the election did not materialize.

The international community has a strong interest in seeing Mali return to some degree of stability. Several countries, including Canada and France, have sent intervention forces or military supplies to the country in the last year in an effort to end the conflict between pro-government forces and rebels representing the ethnic Tuaregs of the north.

The Tuaregs are nomadic pastoralists related to the Berbers of the Sahara who make up a unique ethnic group different from the sub-Saharan ethnic communities of southern Mali.

Hostilities between the Tuareg and Mali's central government, based in the southern city of Bamako, have existed for generations.

There have been several Tuareg uprisings against the central government and attempts to negotiate greater autonomy for the Tuaregs since Mali's independence from the French colonial government in 1960. The separatist movement was given new life — and new weapons and funds — after the end of the Libyan conflict in October 2011, when a number of Tuareg returned to Mali after fighting in Moammar Gadhafi's army.