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Mali - Political Parties

The Malian Constitution requires political parties to respect the principles of national sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, national unity, and secularism - and a 2005 law prohibits non-secular political parties. A wide variety of political parties and coalitions — often organized around leading personalities — operate in fluid and frequently shifting electoral coalitions. The largest party, ADEMA, participated in the ADP coalition to back President Amadou Toumani Touré during the 2007 elections. A new political party, the Project for Economic and Social Development (PDES), was formed in July 2010 in preparation for the 2012 presidential election; PDES was established as a successor to the Citizen Movement, Touré’s nonpartisan political association.

When one looks for differences between the poliical parties, in terms of their projects for socety, they are difficult to find. What differentites ADEMA from its competitors, is that the other major political parties are centeed on one strong leader who formed the party to dvance his personal ambitions. Mali's largest political party, the Alliance for a Democratic Mali (ADEMA), began as a collection of associations fighting for democracy during the dictatorship of Moussa Traore, and as an umbrella group, it is inherently diverse. The party generally adheres to a center-left line.

ADEMA is defined by its historical commitment to deocratic ideals. By failing to develop and articulate distinct and clear political positions, the political parties had ceded the terrain to other social groups. With the 2009 controversy over the Family Code, Islamic groups and other sectors of civil society had grown in power and influence precisely because the political parties had not been articulating a clear, alternative message.

Observers attribute the multiplication of political parties to the fervor that accompanied Mali's democratic transition in 1991-1992. Malian leaders during the transition overcompensated for several decades of dictatorship by drafting rules enabling any individual or any political grouping to register as a political party.

Amidst a gaggle of over 100 political registered political parties in Mali, only 17 were represented in Parliament in 2006, and only a handful of these were truly national in character. President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) enjoyed the support of most of the main political parties, while eschewing specific party membership, claiming the mantle of a political independent, or "consensus" leader. Until recently, the absence of a declared opposition party enabled Muslims to describe their political system as one of consensus.

In 2006 Mali's third largest party, the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD), endorsed the re-election bid of President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT). By casting its lot with ATT rather than running a presidential candidate of its own, the URD ended speculation that party founder Soumaila Cisse, a political heavyweight who finished second to ATT in 2002, might reverse his decision to sit out the 2007 campaign. Cisse had passed the period since his defeat as president of Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The URD, ADEMA and ATT had been working since September to hammer out a joint political "platform," now known as the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), designed to catapult ATT to victory in 2007. The URD, ADEMA and 12 other political parties officially signed the ADP document - which appears to be nothing more than a statement of mutual support for ATT's re-election - on 08 December 2006. A total of 10,777 communal council seats are up for grabs in Mali's upcoming municipal elections on 26 April 2009. Instead of voting for specific candidates, Mali's estimated 8 million electors vote for party lists. Local councilors are then selected by proportional representation, meaning that the better a party list does on election day, the more individuals on that list will be seated as councilors. The deadline for the political parties to submit their candidate lists was midnight on March 11. Local councilors select representatives to Mali's Regional Assemblies and the High Council of Collectivities (HCC) from among their own ranks.

In several of Mali's largest political groupings, controversy enveloped the process of crafting candidate lists. Many individuals with political ambition gravitated to whichever political party or independent grouping offered the highest ranking to maximize their chances of election. Mali's three largest political parties - the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), Union for Democracy and the Republic (URD), opposition Rally for Mali (RPM) - all lost several senior officials at the local level to defection or disgruntlement. Perhaps the most high profile defection was Alima Coulibaly Traore, the sister of National Assembly president and ADEMA leader Diouncounda Troare. Madame Traore engineered a very public resignation from ADEMA after suffering the humiliation of being placed 27th out of 27 candidates on ADEMA's candidate list for Bamako's second district.

The Malian press reported that the list preparation in 2009 was overwhelmingly influenced by candidates' financial contributions to the party campaign chests. One political cartoon in a local newspaper showed an aspiring candidate telling the party boss, "I don't have money but I can mobilize voters," while the party boss replies, "It's cash or nothing." Other Malian newspapers report that candidates paid from 1 million to 5 million FCFA (roughly 50,000 to 250,000 USD) to be placed on the top of their party list. The political parties have reportedly asked for financial contributions from candidates due to the inadequacy of public financing and support from party members.

Opposition parties suspect the Malian government of inflating voter rolls to facilitate election day fraud. Opposition leaders began calling for an audit of Mali's electoral rolls prior to the presidential and legislative elections of 2007. This demand resurfaced in 2009 as opposition parties contend that inaccurate voter lists will enable phantom voters to case multiple ballots on election day.

Mali's electoral rolls have expanded significantly over recent years, from 5.2 million voters in 2002 to nearly 6.9 million in 2007 - a rise of nearly 20 percent. In 2008 this number surpassed 7.2 million and the Mali's electoral list was hovering near 8 million names by 2009. It was likely impossible for Mali, whose population is estimated at between 12 to 14 million, to have 8 million citizens of voter age.

It was estimated that 70 percent of deaths in Mali are never reported to civil authorities, meaning that many of the names on Mali's electoral list, which has not been fully updated since 1992, are individuals who are no longer alive but for whom no official death certificate was ever issued.

The commonality of Malian names posed another serious challenge, and it is not unusual to find many individuals with the exact same first and last names among the list of voters registered for specific polling places. To complicate matters further, since many births also go unreported, it is not unusual for individuals to have the same vague birth date - either a default December 31 birth date entered by government administrators or just a year with no specific date recorded.

The Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) is Mali's second largest political party behind only the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) party in size and elected office holders. The URD had 29 seats in the Malian National Assembly in 2009. During the 2007 presidential elections the URD joined with ADEMA to endorse President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) for re-election. Together ADEMA and URD formed the backbone of ATT's 2007 political coalition, known as the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP). Although the glue holding the ADP together has weakened somewhat since 2007, the URD remains highly supportive of ATT. URD President Younoussi Toure - no relation to ATT - and other URD officers indicated that this support was based largely on the URD's belief that its political leader, current president of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union Soumaila Cisse, will be ATT's chosen successor in 2012.

Mali's relaxed rules on the creation of political parties was adversely impacting the larger parties by funneling public financing funds away from legitimate parties like the URD and toward numerous non-existent micro-parties. On 05 February 2009 the Malian government announced the award of public financing totaling FCFA 1 billion (approx. USD 2 million) to be divided between 30 political parties for use during the April local election campaign. A total of 62 parties applied for funding. Parties receiving funds were selected based on audits of internal financial records conducted by the Accounting Section of the Malian Supreme Court. Funds were divided using a formula that weighed levels of party participation in previous elections together with the numbers of National Assembly Deputies, municipal councilors, and women officials elected to office by each qualified party.

National Union for Rebirth (UNPR) under party president Modibo Sangare is Mali's only Islamic political party and Sangare is the only political leader openly seeking to transform Mali into an Islamic Republic. Although the UNPR's platform is seemingly at odds with laws prohibiting non-secular political parties, Sangare and the UNPR continued to hover along the fringes of the Malian political spectrum, presumably because the party is so small that Malian officials simply prefer to leave well enough alone. As UNPR president and an outspoken member of Mali's al-Sunna or "wahhabi" community, Sangare is also on the fringes of Mali's religious spectrum. With no representation at any level within the Malian government and almost no resources, the UNPR would be indistinguishable from Mali's estimated 100 other micro-parties were it not for the UNPR's outspoken president, Modibo Sangare. In 2002 Sangare was one of 24 presidential candidates seeking to replace former President Alpha Oumar Konare. Although Sangare garnered only 11,600 of the 1.5 million votes cast, he finished as well or better than others with more resources and more mainstream messages. Sangare tried to run for president again in 2007 but was unable to muster the USD 20,000 registration fee. In 2007 and 2008 Sangare helped organize protests by Muslim groups against President Amadou Toumani Toure's still unrealized attempt to abolish the death penalty and revise Mali's Family Code in order to provide more equal rights for women. In November 2008 security forces used tear gas to break up one UNPR rally. In addition to his vocal position against death penalty abolition, greater inheritance rights for women, or attempts by human rights groups to eliminate the practice of excision, Sangare openly advocates for transforming the secular Malian state into a Islamic Republic and the incorporation of certain aspects of Sharia law. The 2012 presidential contest was a wide-open affair: current President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) is an independent who has vowed to respect the Constitution and step down at the end of his second term.

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Page last modified: 06-08-2017 19:18:30 ZULU