News / Africa

Mali Prepares to Pick a New President

A man rides a bicycle past electoral campaign posters in Bamako August 9, 2013.
A man rides a bicycle past electoral campaign posters in Bamako August 9, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
— Malians are going to the polls Sunday for a presidential run-off election that will decide who leads the country out of 18 months of unprecedented conflict and political crisis. The final round of campaigning was relatively quiet, in part due to the Eid al-Fitr holiday period.
 
It was a sleepy end to a 48-hour campaign run for the two candidates, former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and former Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse.
 
The Constitutional Court did not confirm results of last month's first round of voting until Wednesday, eve of the major Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan, so religion took priority over politics.
 
Malian presidential candidates, Soumaila Cisse, left, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, undated file photos.Malian presidential candidates, Soumaila Cisse, left, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, undated file photos.
x
Malian presidential candidates, Soumaila Cisse, left, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, undated file photos.
Malian presidential candidates, Soumaila Cisse, left, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, undated file photos.
Results indicate Keita dominated the first round of voting with nearly 40 percent of the vote, while Cisse pulled just under 20 percent. Since the July 28 polls, most of the 25 other candidates eliminated in the first round have thrown their support to Keita, including the third place finisher Dramane Dembele.
 
It was not until Friday evening that caravans of cheering young people on the streets of Bamako announced that the campaign was, at last, on.
 
Young men, all wearing T-shirts showing their support for Cisse, rolled up to a rally of less than a thousand people.
 
A youth leader for Cisse's URD party, Moussa Coulibaly, attached an impromptu campaign signboard to a stage, a piece of cardboard with small political fliers of the four parties backing Cisse in the run-off.
 
The election, the country's first since 2007, is seen as crucial to unlocking nearly $4 billion in promised international aid that was suspended after a military coup last year plunged the country into chaos. The question on the minds of many voters, however, is whether Cisse's support base will be strong enough to propel him past Keita, who has 20 of the 28 first-round candidates backing him, in the run-off.
 
"Yes, it is enough. We are confident," says Coulibaly. "We have done a lot of mobilization to get voters on our side. We showed them what Soumaila has done and what he wants to do as president."
 
Keita and Cisse served together in a government in the 1990s, but ended up in opposing camps following the 2002 presidential win by Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown last year in the military uprising. In the chaos that followed, ethnic Tuareg separatists seized towns and cities in Mali's northern desert, with the help of several Islamist groups.
 
Both in their 60's and long-time fixtures on Mali's political scene, Cisse and Keita, their supporters say, could not be more different.
 
Cisse, a technocrat from the north, has run a campaign focused on economic recovery, while Keita, the one-time prime minister and former National Assembly president from the south, has focused on restoring Mali's honor and military strength.
 
Unlike Cisse, Keita did not make any public campaign appearances. His team cancelled a stadium rally planned for Friday, citing security concerns, though they did not elaborate.
 
A United Nations peacekeeping force of 12,000 troops began providing national security in July, as the last of French forces that earlier this year pushed Islamist groups back into desert areas, continued preparations to leave the country by the end of the year.
 
Supporters of both men say they are focusing on getting people to actually go out and vote Sunday.
 
Two dozen women from Keita's RPM party and other allied parties met at party headquarters Friday to retrieve the sample ballots they will use to show people how to firmly place their finger print in the square below the candidate's photo.
 
Authorities said nearly 400,000 ballots were cast incorrectly during the first round of the election, and so were not counted.
 
RPM women's leader Aissata Toure says there was not much time for campaigning before the runoff, but she is not worried. "Our candidate is more than visible, and we have voters aplenty," she says, adding that the choice before the voters "is bigger than just our party — it is the Malian people who back our candidate."
 
The first round saw a record voter turnout of 49 percent. Voting was calm despite concerns of attacks or instability in the formerly rebel- and Islamist-held north.
 
Amadou Maiga contributed reporting from Bamako; some information was provided by AP and AFP.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid