DAKAR, Senegal —Malians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff that is expected to see incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita returned to office in the face of criticisms of his conduct of the country’s security predicament and allegations of election fraud.   Keita, 73, is faced off with the country’s former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, 68.

Mali, a landlocked country, is home to at least 20 plus tribal groups with the majority of people living on less than $2 a day. Over the past years, the West African nation has combatted jihadist attacks and inter-communal violence.

International sources say the first round was interfused by violence and threats from armed groups leading to several hundred polling stations being closed, mainly in the lawless central region.

Security services informed media groups on Saturday that they had disrupted a plot to carry out “targeted attacks” in the capital city Bamako on the eve of the runoff.

Shortly after 0900 GMT, incumbent President Keita cast his vote in the capital Bamako. The President also warned against “staged” electoral fraud after accusations of ballot box stuffing and other irregularities. Adding, “How could you stage fraud when you are assured of the support of your people?” Keita said.

The main opposition party headed by Cisse’ issued a release saying in the early hours of Sunday that ballot papers were already circulating, several hours before the polls opened.

Despite the opposition leader’s claims, international political analysts say his failure to unite the opposition behind him, poses a serious problem for his chances in the runoff. Meanwhile, some first-round challengers are said to have either backed the president or refused to give voting instructions to their followers.

Political commentators say the fact that few Malians attended sequence of organized gatherings and demonstrations urged by opposition leaders in the capital Bamako ahead of the run-off have position incumbent president, Keita, commonly named “IBK” after his initials, as the favorite to likely win

Meanwhile, security has been tightened throughout the country. France still maintains 4,500 troops in the country alongside the UN’s 15,000 peacekeepers and a regional G5 Sahel force.