LONDON, July 25 (UPI) -- Presidential elections in Mali will be a crucial test for a country less than two years removed from a crippling political crisis, a scholar warns.
Malians head to the polls Sunday to take part in the first round of presidential elections. The vote comes less than two years after a coup and nearly eight months after French military forces intervened in a fight against al-Qaida.
Paul Melly, an associate fellow at British think tank Chatham House, said Malians are facing a "critical test"
"A state machine whose failings have been graphically illustrated by the events of the past two years now has the chance to show whether it is in fact more resilient than some had feared," he said in a report published Thursday.
There are 27 candidates competing for president, including the African nation's first-ever female presidential candidates.
Malian leaders pledged during a donors conference in May to capitalize on gains made since French operations against al-Qaida and nomantic rebels began. Melly, however, said there was a general sense of frustration with the political class among everyday Malians.
"Even if the recent experience of national crisis draws more voters to the polls this time, there are serious practical hurdles to be overcome," he said.