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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid