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Voter Apathy Expected in Mali Election


Voters in the West African nation of Mali go to the polls Sunday to elect a president. The incumbent, President Amadou Toumani Toure, one of eight candidates, is widely expected to win a second term. But as Kari Barber reports from Bamako, Mali's capital, quite a few of the city's residents may choose not to vote.

Supporters of presidential hopeful Sidibe Aminata Diallo chant "Ami," a nickname for the candidate.

Political fervor is intense at the rally, but out on the streets, the mood is more reserved.

Security guard Dodje Adanzouhoin says he is not interested in politics.

Adanzouhoin says he pays attention to politics, but does not participate. In his neighborhood, he says, there are people from all different parties, so he prefers to not take sides.

Oumou Toure, a leader of a women's organization, is trying to get more women to vote. She says it is not easy.

Toure says in the past women have not understood the importance of their vote and voted how they were told or did not vote at all. She hopes women realize they are citizens too.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, political apathy is more prevalent in Bamako than in the countryside where about 75 percent of eligible voters applied for and collected their voting cards. In Bamako, about 35 percent signed up and got their cards.

An adviser to the government, Wilfried Wesch of Germany, attributes Bamako's political malaise to the fact that it is a young democracy and many people are not all that interested in politics.

"In all the elections we had in the past we had a very, very low participation first of all because people were not interested," he said. "And the political parties and the government did not do anything to promote democracy, they did not do anything to educate their people."

In the past, voter turnout for presidential and local elections has typically been around 20 percent.

Wesch says the current administration has made efforts to encourage political participation, and he is optimistic the turnout for this election will be larger.

"I hope and I expect a participation of nearly 50 percent, which is really nearly European and United States standards," he said.

Of the seven opposition candidates, the head of the National Assembly, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is considered President Amadou Toumani Toure's most serious rival. Though Mr. Toure is expected to win a second five-year term, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round is scheduled for May 13.

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