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Mali - 2018 General Election

The party of Malian presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse said on 30 July 2018 that the election would go to a run-off on 12 August 2018 between Cisse and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a day after a vote that was heavily disrupted by suspected Islamist gunmen. Keita -- commonly known by his initials IBK -- led the crowded field of 24 candidates -- including one woman -- bidding for re-election to the post he has held since 2013. Ministry of Territorial Administration figures showed that, of the roughly 23,000 polling stations that were meant to open, 4,632 were disrupted by "armed attacks or other violence," of which 644 were unable to operate. Some stations were set on fire, while numerous instances of violence against election officials were reported. In Mali's north, where the state is barely present, armed groups who signed the peace accord helped to ensure security. In Mali's north, where the state is barely present, armed groups who signed the peace accord helped to ensure security.

The expected date of the next elections was April 2018, but this was delayed until 29 July 2018. Mali faces the risk of conquest by Islamist Jihadists in a spirited campaign to install Sharia law, and in the process, hundreds of people have been killed. According to the UN, the government has lost control over some of its own territory, with a very limited state presence in some areas. While polls suggested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 71, is favourite to see off 23 rivals in the poll, the main Al-Qaeda-linked jhadist alliance made its presence felt on the final day of campaigning Friday, dubbing the election a "mirage" that would do nothing for the Malian people.

More than eight million Malians are due to vote in the poll with provisional official results due August 3 at the latest with a second round on August 12 if required. In northern regions where the government has little say in local affairs, armed groups who signed the peace accord will guard ballot boxes. Turnout is traditionally less than 50 percent in a country where less than one third of those aged over 15 are literate.

A fairly complex Election Administration configuration includes three bodies (the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization - MATD, the Independent National Electoral Commission - CENI and the General Delegation for Elections - DGE) with different powers in the organization of the election. The framework for consultation and information of candidates, political parties and the public brought a consensus among stakeholders.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced 08 April 2017 that his brother, Prime Minister Modibo Keita, had been replaced by Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga by way of presidential decree. Maiga was serving as defense minister of Mali. The decree stated that the previous prime minister, Modibo Keita, had offered his resignation. Keita had served as prime minister since January 2015. Maiga is a close ally of President Keita and held his defense minister position since September 2016.

The political and security situation significantly deteriorated since mid-2017. The resumption of fighting between the signatory armed groups in northern Mali, growing insecurity in the center of the country and mounting political turmoil surrounding the constitutional review process delayed the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. In response to these challenges, MINUSMA extended its good offices to assist Malian parties in finding solutions to accelerate the implementation of the Agreement. Progress was made with the signature of a truce between the Coordination des mouvements de lAzawad (CMA) and the Platform coalition of armed groups on 23 August 2017 and of a document of commitments that includes a definitive cessation of hostilities. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita also decided to stay the constitutional referendum on 18 August 2017.

The full operationalization of the interim authorities continued to be hampered by internal rivalries and limited administrative, budgetary and planning capacities. Nonetheless, the interim authorities in Gao, Mnaka, Taoudenni and Timbuktu adopted a priority action plan aimed at enabling access to State funds for the delivery of basic services. In Kidal, disagreements between the armed groups over the establishment of mixed patrols prevented the return of the Platform members who were members of the interim authorities, thereby delaying their operationalization. On 28 June, the Peacebuilding Fund launched a capacity-building project for the Mnaka and Taoudenni interim authorities on aspects relating to territorial division, public works and the provision of basic services.

Owing to the prevailing insecurity, there was no progress with regard to the redeployment of the civil administration to northern and central Mali. Despite a slight increase in judicial officers, low deployment rates of State officials continued to adversely affect the delivery of basic social services and undermined citizens confidence in the State. As at 11 September 2017, only 30 per cent of State officials were present at their duty stations in the northern regions and Mopti, compared with 38 per cent in January 2017.

The decision by Mali's government to postpone regional and municipal council elections, amid concerns over security, sent a bad signal for the prospect of long-term stability in the West African country. The territorial, administrative and municipal council elections, planned for 17 December 2017, were postponed to April 2018 to give the government "more time to organise absolutely inclusive elections", Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, Mali's minister of territorial administration, said in a statement 26 November 2017 . The Malian government's main problem is that it suffers from a lack of legitimacy.

According to Aurelien Tobie, a senior researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) Mali project, postponing the elections was "a good indicator that the situation is not improving in Mali despite the peace agreement, despite the international presence [and] despite all the support that the international community is giving" to the state.

Malian Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga presented on December 29, 2017 his resignation and that of his government to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, announced the Malian presidency in a statement. Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga, in office since April, "has submitted to the President of the Republic his resignation as well as that of members of his government," said the presidency. This is the 4th Premier of IBK mandature to resign. No official explanation was given for this resignation, which comes as a presidential election is scheduled for July 2018 in Mali.

Caritas, the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church in the African nation of Mali, deployed over 500 election observers during a presidential election scheduled for July 29. The observers were trained from July 12-13 at a workshop in Badalabougou.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) noted that electoral file of 2018, which included 8,000,462 electors, remained perfectible with respect to its inclusivity, especially for young people, who were absent in very large numbers. The campaign was visible in Bamako and in the main regional capitals and circles through posters of candidates, who focused on the local campaign (door-to-door, informal discussion groups, caravans, etc.), while by involving unions, artists, youth and women's associations to mobilize voters.

Due to several factors, the election was characterized by low inclusiveness. The security framework, the very low registration of young people to the electoral roll, the interrogations related to the distribution of voter cards, which poses an additional condition to the exercise of the right to vote, the exclusion of most Malian refugees and the difficulties of voting for internally displaced Malians contributed to severely limiting the right of Malians to universal suffrage.

The electoral card distribution operation was carried out in a non-uniform manner in the country, mainly due to a lack of clear organizational methodology. The distribution of cards was not always done individually but in bulk by head of family or village and also with representatives of political parties 19 . The EOM wondered if their legitimate addressees were able to exercise their right to vote.

The public and private media were able to cover the campaign and the electoral process in a free and unhindered manner, despite strict provisions on press offenses. They have also been actively involved in the civic education of voters. Even though they have made the effort to cover all 24 candidates, the public broadcasting media nevertheless granted them unequal access to news programs, favoring Ibrahim Boubacar Keta by covering his activities as a candidate and President-in-Office, and that of the Government.

Despite the creation of election-specific programs, there were few conflicting debates that fueled the media campaign. In particular, the debates organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) among ten candidates were banned from broadcasting on the state media and very little relayed in the private media.

The election campaign, held from July 7 to July 27, was not large. While freedom of assembly and movement were respected, deteriorating security conditions in the central and northern regions greatly reduced candidate mobility and campaigning activities. The logistical and financial difficulties of traveling to the areas most affected by the insecurity therefore determined the progress of the campaign.

In a fragile security situation that severely limits the candidates' ability to move, the disparity in financial and logistical resources between candidates has become crucial in these regions. Moreover, the fact that public aid to political parties intervened only at the end of the campaign disadvantaged the candidates who did not have significant financial resources.

Although security incidents affected voting in part of the polling stations in the central and northern regions, voting was calm in the rest of the country.

Incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in the first round vote in the West African state. Keita won 41.4 percent of the vote, and Soumaila Cisse from the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) won 17.8 percent of the vote on July 29.

As in 2013, veteran politicians Boubacar Keita and Soumaila Cisse would contest the second round of presidential elections in Mali on 12 August 2018. Both represent the old political class. Keita, who studied history and international relations in Paris and Dakar, has been a central figure in Malian politics for decades. He was prime minister in the 1990s under then President Alpha Konare. He was parliamentary president for many years afterwards. In 2013 he was finally elected president.

Cisse has also belonged to the old political class since democratization in the 1990s. He was President Konare's Minister of Economics and Finances, and later headed the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. At the time he worked closely with his present rival Keita, who was then prime minister. Both ran for president for the first time in 2002. It was the only time Cisse beat IBK, even if by a very slight margin of 4,000 votes. But Cisse was then defeated in the second round by Amadou Toumani Toure.

The second round felt like a repeat of the face off between Cisse and IBK in 2013. Then, IBK won more than 77 percent of the votes. In the lead up to Mali's presidential run-off election, opposition candidates continued to accuse the government of electoral fraud during the first round of voting which took place on July 29 despite the Constitutional Court rejecting a legal challenge before confirming August 12 as the date of the runoff between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and opposition leader Soumaila Cisse. Cisse, businessman Aliou Diallo, and 18 others out of a total of 24 opposition candidates alleged voter cards were deliberately mis-distributed and ballot boxes stuffed. However, the president of the court, Manassa Danioko, decided the runoff vote should still take place as planned.





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