News / Africa

Mali Prepares for Election Amid Fears of Low Voter Turnout

Electoral materials are stacked in a customs office after shipment from France in Bamako, Mali, June 18 2013.
Electoral materials are stacked in a customs office after shipment from France in Bamako, Mali, June 18 2013.
Anne Look
Mali plans to begin distributing millions of biometric voter cards on Saturday with just one month to go before a July 28 presidential poll.  The election aims to turn the page on 17 months of political crisis after a March 2012 military coup and subsequent takeover of the north by armed groups.  But there is already concern that frenzied electoral preparations won't be finished in time and that voter participation will be low. 

Mali was just weeks away from an April 2012 presidential election when mutinous soldiers overthrew the government.

Now, one military coup, one Islamist takeover of the north, and one French-led regional military intervention later, Mali is getting ready to host a 12,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission to help stabilize the country.

The international community wants Mali to elect its new president as soon as possible.

In Bamako, there is a certain urgency among potential voters to just get on with it.

 "The elections could happen tomorrow and I'd go vote," one voter said, "they need a legitimate government."

The electoral timeline is tight, perhaps too tight according to some analysts.  Sloppy preparations could open the way for contested results.

Big questions remain about security for campaigning and voting in the north, as well how the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the conflict are going to vote.

Gilles Yabi, West Africa director for the International Crisis Group, said holding the election on July 28 just for the sake of meeting the deadline is risky.

He said setting the date did help accelerate technical preparations and it got the government and a Tuareg rebel group, the MNLA, to sign an interim peace accord, but now the country needs to evaluate what is left to be done. 

"Yes, the country does need a presidential election, but if they mess this up, if there is weak voter participation and if there is a part of the country, the South, that votes and a part, the North, that does not really vote, then that will not help Mali come out of this crisis and deal with its deeper issues of governance," Yabi said.

Voter participation is a key concern.  It's a problem that predates the current crisis.  Voter turnout in Mali's elections has never reached 40 percent.

In Bamako, registered voters said they do plan to vote but are confused about how to pick up their voter cards.

"You are supposed to go where you had your photo taken for the biometric registration, but that was done back in 2012 before the coup," a female voter noted.   "If you can't remember where that is, then you won't get your card."  She added that authorities need to make more of an effort to help people because "voters won't make that effort to find their cards themselves."

According to analysts, confusion about procedures is but one obstacle to getting people to the polls July 28. The vote will fall during Ramadan and Mali's rainy season.

Campaigning is set to officially begin on July 7.  Fifteen candidates are running for president.  There is no clear frontrunner, and local pollsters are already predicting a run-off.  The top three candidates all held high-level posts in one or both of the two previous governments.

Malian university professor and political analyst Issa Ndiaye said Malians can expect more of the same. He said there is a feeling that things are going to go back to business as usual, and that might discourage voters.  He says for many, the people who were in power over the past 10-20 years are responsible for the current crisis.  He says the international community forced these elections on Mali, but many Malians are concerned about other things right now - the economy, paying daily expenses, security - and that might also impact voter turnout.  

"What is the point," he asked, "of a poll to elect someone who will not at all be representative even if he is elected by the small number of people who vote? 

"The vote will be legal, but it won't be legitimate," he added.

Analysts say the country's next leader will need all the support that he or she can get.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid