News

Mali Elections Held Amid Concerns of Low Turnout, Journalists' Arrests

In Mali, which is known for its voter apathy, citizens showed up to the polls in small numbers for legislative elections. A coalition of parties that back recently re-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure is expected to keep a majority of the 147 seats in parliament. Kari Barber reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar that some in the country say the recent arrest of several journalists shows that democracy in Mali, heralded as one of the most stable in West Africa, is under threat.

Advisor to the Mali government for the 2007 elections, General Wilfried Wesch of Germany visited polling stations to ensure everything is in order. He says turnout at the polls has been even lower than usual.

"I know it is very quiet in Mali and people do not go out that early in the morning, but I am surprised that hardly anybody is out," he said. "That is a bit, I would not say worrying, because that is up to Mali to decide, but obviously we want to have a high participation."

Wesch says he is expecting a participation rate lower than the presidential election in April, which had a 36 percent voter turnout.

Mali's reputation as one of the most free democracies in West Africa is being challenged by the recent arrest and sentencing of a school teacher and five journalists for insulting President Toure. The teacher gave students an assignment to write about an imaginary president's mistress and the five journalists were fined and given suspended sentences for reporting and publishing articles on the matter.

International press groups have condemned the sentences.

Also last week, a general strike closed down most of the capital, Bamako, as unions demanded an increase in civil-servant salaries and a decrease in the costs of utilities and food.

Despite these looming concerns, Wesch says voting is going on in an organized manner and without any disruptions.

"As far as security is concerned, police are around here, but they are just relaxing. There are no demonstrations, no nothing at all," he added. "On the contrary, it is even too quiet."

Following the presidential election, opposition parties had threatened to boycott the legislative elections, demanding new voter rolls and registration cards.

International and Malian observers said the presidential elections were well organized, free and fair.

Voter Leo Tall says he is worried that with the recent arrests of journalists, the government is beginning to strengthen its grip in its second term and infringing on the freedoms Malians have enjoyed.

"Mali is a very poor country, but people will tell you there is freedom there," said Tall. "But now, it is very poor and you do not have freedom anymore. That scares people."

From a polling station in Bamako, civil society activist Jiaba Camara Sidibe Diallo says she is optimistic about the results of this year's presidential and parliamentary elections and the growth of democracy in Mali.

Sidibe Diallo says she hopes the winning candidates will take into account the needs of the majority of Malians and create programs that encourage development, civic participation and enhance the role of women in society.

President Toure who is often credited with bringing Mali out of military dictatorship and into democracy, easily won re-election in April with 71 percent of the vote. In his first term, Mr. Toure worked to improve roads and foreign relations in the nation, which is one of the poorest in the world.

Results of Sunday's election are expected in the coming weeks.

For candidates who do not win 50 percent of the vote or more, a second round of legislative elections are scheduled to be held July 22.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs