Mali’s first round election results announced

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s August 2, 2013 blog post.

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On Friday morning August 2, the Minister of Administration Moussa Sinko announced the results of the first-round in Mali’s July 28 presidential election. The former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta also known by his nickname IBK received 39 percent of the vote, with Soumaïla Cissé a former finance minister receiving 19 percent. The results will not be official until the Constitutional Court validates the balloting outcome this weekend. Both set to face off in the August 11 second-round runoff, are already actively campaigning, with IBK favored to win.  Only three candidates, of the twenty seven that participated in the election, received more than 5 percent of the vote.

On talking with Mayor Yeah Samake in his home town of Ouelessebougou this morning, during his meeting with political advisers, he expressed disappointment in not faring better in the election. He indicated several factors affected the campaign. IBK had a large financial “war-chest” of over $3 million from several Muslim clerics and leaders in neighboring African nations. Being from Bamako he was the best known and organized candidate compared Mr. Cisse, who reigned from Timbuktu, the sparely populated northern town.

Muslim clerics also made a difference by preaching in their mosques, calling for support of IBK. They even marked typical ballots to be taken home to family members. With Bamako and the surrounding towns having the bulk of the voter population, over 90 percent of the Muslim community responded to the imam’s call—giving IBK a distinct advantage. The military believing IBK would be in the lead also gave their support.

Imam Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara, one of the most revered Islamic preachers in Mali, who had denounced the Islamists takeover of the northern Mali last year, stated in a release that “His faith is not for sale”. As such he did not call upon his followers to vote for any candidate.

Voters in Bamako, with indelible ink still inscribed on their finger after voting for IBK, were jubilant, and danced in the streets.  Election observers had noted the voting process at the polling stations, although not perfect, was perceived as fair with few irregularities. Above all the consensus was that the election brought months of uncertainty to a peaceful resolution—at least for the first-round.

Tiébilé Dramé, a former foreign minister, who had withdrawn from the campaign, stated last week that almost one million young voters and those displaced during the eighteen month chaos in northern Mali, by the Islamists takeover, would not be included in the voting process. He further said fairness for voting did not exist, with everyone being able to participate in the election–noting that 350,000 young people and 500,000 refugees would be excluded.

Mr. Samake said he was not inclined to support either Mr. Keita or Mr. Cisse in the second-round, since he was critical of them during the campaign. He reiterated that money played a major role in the outcome, and that IBK was well-funded for the second-round election runoff in August. Mr. Samake was not an insider, and had not served in any prior government administration, so he was not a household name.

Going forward he noted that Mali needs to have a fresh start after many months of instability. The new president will need to show the international community that the country can establish democratic institutions, so that the donors will honor their $4 billion in commitments to help rebuild Mali.

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