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Elections Continue in Mali Despite Virus, Violence Fears

By VOA News April 19, 2020

Parliamentary elections went on as planned in Mali Sunday, despite threats of Jihadist violence and fears of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Low voter turnout was expected Sunday for the run-off legislative elections. The first round of elections, held on March 29th after repeated delays, was marred by intimidation and jihadist attacks – including the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cisse.

Voter turnout in the first round of elections was just over 12% in the capital city of Bamako, according to government officials. Many are expected to stay inside, heeding guidelines to avoid large gatherings and keep distance between people.

Mali has reported over 200 cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

These are the first elections to fill Mali's 147-seat parliament since 2013. Elections were initially scheduled to take place in late 2018 but were delayed due to security concerns, which has left many Malians questioning why Sunday's vote was not delayed as well.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was elected in 2013, addressed the nation last week wearing a face mask, saying that the decision to continue with the vote as scheduled was not made by his government, but instead determined by an independent commission in the country.

Thousands of Malians have died as the country suffered sporadic attacks by jihadists as well as cases of inter-ethnic violence since unrest began in 2012.

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