BAMAKO, Mali – Over a year after the military coup of March 2012, the government of Mali is preparing for new elections. Mali’s election date, July 28th, a month after the government signed a peace deal with the Tuareg nationalist rebels, has been highly influenced by France.
The logic behind the date is simple. Conducting elections shortly after the signed peace treaty are crucial to restore legitimacy in this historically democratic government. With a successful election, normalization will begin and society will rebuild while reducing tension and conflict.
However, many Malians argue that voter logistics trump this logic, most notably, the man in charge of conducting the elections. The president of Mali’s election commission, Mamadou Diamountani, hopes to push the election back saying “It will be extremely difficult to organize the first round of the presidential election on July 28th.”
The majority of voting challenges stem from polling card production. The polling cards are the single most important document for voter participation as they exist with the dual purpose of an identity card and a voter registration card.
But as Diamountani warns, the production of the 8 million polling cards has fallen behind schedule. And much more time must be allocated to the distribution of polling cards to the potentially 500,000 displaced Malians. As the current election date stands, there will be a considerable amount of unregistered voters.
Along with issues regarding the election date, French president Francois Hollande came under fire for his statements ensuring the electoral participation of people from Kidal. The reason for animosity comes from the fact that the Northeastern town of Kidal is still held by the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
Despite a negotiated peace deal during elections between the Malian government and MNLA, there is reluctance to allow government troops into Kidal for the election. This increases the likelihood of voter intimidation, and potentially increases conflict as the election grows near.
Yet Malian optimists share the French President’s desired election date. “We are ready. All is in order. We are going to hold elections on the 28th,” said Mali’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Moussa Coulibaly. Coulibaly also stated that the Ministry of Territorial Administration, not Diamountani’s election commission, would have the final say over the election date.
There are currently 15 candidates running for the President’s position. Beginning July seventh, candidates will officially begin their campaigns.
– Michael Carney