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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More