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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs