News / Africa

Registration Chaos, Security Could Impact Mali Elections

A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, July 23, 2013.
A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, July 23, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Ivan Broadhead
Malians go to the polls Sunday to elect new government leaders following a March 2012 coup and a subsequent crisis precipitated by a Tuareg secessionist movement. The international community has received some criticism for demanding presidential and legislative elections of an ill-prepared nation as a condition for freeing up $4 billion in aid. Concerns are growing that the elections may entrench recent divisions rather than promote national reconciliation.
 
Shortly after government offices had opened on a hot, humid Bamako morning, 50 Malians were already gathered at the central elections directorate. Men formed one line. In another stood women and the elderly, including three young mothers cradling infants in brightly colored shawls. 
 
At a window, behind iron bars, an official was entering data into a computer, attempting to understand why no one had received the biometric identity card that will allow them to vote in Sunday’s elections. 
 
Acording to Oumar Sidibe, the directorate’s head of communications, at least 100 people from all backgrounds go to the office each day. He spoke to reporters as an officer began assisting Oumou Sangare, the still cardless wife of a former Malian ambassador to the United Nations. 
 
"This is not our job," Sidibe said.  "It should be the job of the ministry of the interior [Ministère Territorial].  He added that they have access to computers that can help people figure out where their electoral cards might be. "We’re simply giving a hand,” he explained.
 
The biometric election document, which contains the bearer’s fingerprint and a color photo, among other data, is widely known as the ‘Nina’ (National Identity Number) card. 

  • A Tuareg man dances at a campaign rally for presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Timbuktu, Mali, July 24, 2013.
  • A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, Mali, July 23, 2013.
  • A vendor walks past a shop decorated with election posters supporting presidential candidate Dramane Dembele, in the central market area of Timbuktu, Mali, July 22, 2013.
  • Issa Djire, a supporter of presidential candidate Dramane Dembele, stands next to posters of Dembele outside his house in Bamako, Mali, July 22, 2013.
  • Traditional Dogon hunters fire shotguns to welcome presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at a campaign rally in Bandiagara, Dogon Country, Mali, July 21, 2013.
  • Presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita speaks at a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 21, 2013.
  • Presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse waves to his supporters at a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 20, 2013.
  • Women and girls wearing outfits made of wax cloth depicting presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse dance and hold up a baby, also decorated with a campaign sticker, during a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 20, 2013.
 
English teacher Brahima Nyere, 59, who is helping his niece obtain her card, said it was hastily introduced for these elections to prevent vote rigging.
 
“I’ve taken part in almost all past elections," Nyere noted. "The system is not working perfectly. For example, in my district there is no center for distributing cards and I don’t know why.”
 
A source close to the international election monitoring team, who wished to remain anonymous for not being authorized to speak to the media, tells VOA only 25 percent of all eligible voters in Mali may have received the crucial election ID card. The source warned that this creates “a potentially significant legitimacy deficit” in the election process.   
 
Further complicating the process of election participation in this conflict-ravaged country is the fact that 400,000 Malians remain internally displaced, with 300,000 more living in refugee camps outside the country. 
 
A further 300,000 first-time voters could be ineligible to cast a ballot after not being included in Mali’s last census. 
 
“Mali was considered a model in Western Africa. The coup that occurred last year was unexpected. Everybody knows that it [the census-based system] is not perfect, but it is the least imperfect,” commented Nicolas Teindas, country director of the International Republican Institute. He is helping inform Malians about election procedures.
 
Bert Koenders, the U.N. special representative to Mali, is more positive. Citing U.N. Development Program figures, he said electoral ID card penetration easily exceeds 25 percent. 
 
“Your figures are not correct," Koenders insisted. "Almost 70 percent of cards have been issued. For the rest, we will have to see how logistical and security arrangements [go]. Nevertheless, it is up to observer missions to decide to what extent these elections are transparent and credible.”
 
In a country on the verge of being overrun by jihadists six months ago, security remains a considerable concern to Koenders, particularly in Kidal, east of Timbuktu, the only Malian city to remain under partial MNLA rebel control.
 
A week before the polls open, only one presidential candidate, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, had campaigned in Kidal, where MNLA adherents agreed to a ceasefire under the terms of last month’s Ouagadougou accord. 
 
Tiebile Drame, one of 28 presidential candidates, pulled out of the race last week saying Kidal, above all, was not ready for elections. The next day fighting between Tuareg and Songhai ethnicities left one man dead in the city. 
 
Five election officials were allegedly kidnapped by MNLA gunmen elsewhere in Kidal province on Saturday, before being released a day later. Koenders said although the U.N. cannot guarantee public safety, it is doing all it can. 
 
“Our human rights people have immediately gone up to Kidal and Gao," he noted. "Any incident in as far as  we can, is being investigated by us. [This] leads to a certain sense among the population that they are not alone.” 
 
Malians appear desperate to restore the democratic values and stability for which their country has long been known. The concern is these elections may create more problems than they solve, with candidates and voters already questioning their very legitimacy. 
 

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