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Mali holds elections despite COVID-19 pandemic and terrorist threats

Screenshot of France 24 on YouTube.

On April 19, 2020, Mali held the second round of legislative elections despite uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as well as ongoing threats from Islamist terrorism in the country.

After voting in the first round on March 29, Malians went to the polls for the second round to replace members of parliament elected in 2013. The five-year legislative term was due to end in 2018, but the elections were postponed on two separate occasions.

Malian journalist Kané Illa, explains the latest postponement in a column for the Anadolu news agency:

Le gouvernement a expliqué ces reports par la grève des magistrats -entamée depuis plus de deux mois en contestation des conditions financières et de travail, qui “a empêché l'acquisition par les candidats de certains documents nécessaires pour postuler aux législatives”.

Dans une déclaration publiée le 26 septembre dernier, l’opposition malienne avait demandé le report des législatives, soutenant “qu’aucune élection régulière, transparente et démocratique ne peut être organisée sans la correction de graves insuffisances et la mise à plat du système de fraude organisée, qui a marqué la dernière élection présidentielle“.

The government explained that these postponements were due to a strike by judges, which lasted more than two months to contest the financial and working conditions, and ‘prevented candidates from obtaining some of the necessary documents for registering in the legislative elections.’

In a statement published on September 26, 2019, the Malian opposition had called for the postponement of the legislative elections, emphasizing ‘that no legitimate, transparent and democratic election could be organized without rectifying the serious shortfalls and examining the organized fraud system, which affected the last presidential election.’

According to local observers, the elections were held within the rules while including the new public health measures concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 26, 2020, there were 370 COVID-19 cases including 21 deaths.

Drissa Traoré, president of the Coalition for Citizen Election Observation in Mali (COCEM), a platform of civil society organizations, stated the following during a press conference on Election Day, April 19, 2020, to provide an update on the initial observations:

Les observateurs de la Cocem ont constaté le renforcement des mesures préventives contre la propagation de COVID-19 par le gouvernement telle que la mise à disposition du gel, gants et des masques pour les agents électoraux et des électeurs dans certaines localités, des unités de lavage des mains dans certains centres de vote. Cependant, des telles mesures auraient pu être effectives dans tous les centres et bureaux de vote, tel que recommandé par la Cocem dans sa déclaration préliminaire du premier tour…

Et il ressort pour l’instant que 95% de bureaux de vote observés ont ouvert à l'heure (avant 8h15) et 5% des bureaux observés ont ouvert entre 8h15 et 9h30.

COCEM observers have noted the strengthening of preventive measures by the government against the spread of COVID-19, including the availability of gel, gloves and masks for election officials and voters in some towns as well as hand washing units in some polling stations. However, such measures could have been in operation in all polling stations, as recommended by COCEM in its opening statement of the first round…

And for now, it appears that 95 percent of the observed polling stations opened on time (before 8:15 a.m.) and 5 percent of the observed stations opened between 8:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Following these elections, Ibrahima Sangho, head of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) held a press conference, among a synergy of other civil society organizations, on the outcomes of these elections.

An article reiterates:

Selon la Synergie des organisations de la société civile et de la CNDH (Commission nationale des droits de l’homme), le taux de participation global à la clôture était de 23,22%. En outre, la mission a noté que 53,87% des votants étaient des femmes.

According to the [coalition] Synergy of civil society organizations and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the overall participation rate was 23.22 percent by the close of the election. The mission also noted that 53.87 percent of voters were women.

These civil society organizations had deployed more than 1,200 observers in the 55 electoral districts.

However, the rates provided by Boubacar Alpha Bah, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, are different:

Le 19 avril, très peu d’électeurs ont effectué le déplacement dans les centres de vote pour élire leurs députés : 2.363.827 votants sur les 6.691.305 inscrits, 2.311.920 suffrages valablement exprimés, soit un taux de participation de 35,33%. Ces chiffres ont été communiqués, hier, par le ministre de l’Administration territoriale et de la Décentralisation, Boubacar Alpha Bah. Les résultats seront soumis à la Cour constitutionnelle qui a le dernier mot. Si cette institution valide les résultats compilés par le ministère de l’Administration territoriale et de la Décentralisation, l’Assemblée nationale ne changera pas fondamentalement de configuration.

On April 19, very few voters made the trip to the polling stations to elect their members of parliament: 2,363,827 voters out of the 6,691,305 registered, 2,311,920 votes legitimately cast, which is a participation rate of 35.33 percent. These figures were shared by the minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Boubacar Alpha Bah, yesterday. The results will be submitted to the Constitutional Court, which has the final say. If this institution validates the results compiled by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, the National Assembly will not fundamentally change configuration.

The rate provided by the minister is closer to the participation rates in the 2013 legislative elections, which had 37.24 percent and that of the second round of the presidential election that took place on August 12, 2018, which was 34.54 percent.

According to journalist Abdoulaye Ouattara, the Constitutional Court has already validated the results of the first round on April 9, 2020:

Au terme de son audience, la Cour a déclaré 22 députés élus dès le premier tour dans 11 circonscriptions électorales. Les 125 autres sièges seront attribués à l’issue du second prévu pour le 19 avril 2020.

At the end of its hearing, the Court announced 22 elected members of parliament from the first round in 11 electoral districts. The other 125 seats will be allocated following the second round, scheduled for April 19, 2020.

These elections were held under unique circumstances: On the one hand, Islamist terrorism has led to the killing of villagers and members of the Malian armed forces. On the other hand, there are restrictions set by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19.

K. Richard Kouassi, a writer for the Afrique Sur 7 website, recalls the latest murderous Islamist terrorist attacks which took a heavy toll:

Le Mali connaît actuellement un moment douloureux. Et pour cause, le lundi 6 avril 2020, le pays a subi une attaque perpétrée par des djihadistes. Selon l'AFP (Agence France presse), le bilan fait état de vingt soldats tués par les assaillants…

Vingt et neuf soldats maliens avaient été tués et cinq autres ont subi des blessures, avaient annoncé les Forces armées maliennes dans un communiqué. Cette attaque était la plus meurtrière qu'a connue le Mali en quatre mois.

Depuis près de dix ans, le pays est sous la menace de groupes armés qui endeuillent les populations et causent d'énormes pertes dans l'armée malienne.

Mali is currently going through a painful time. The reason for this is that on Monday,  April 6, 2020, the country suffered a jihadist attack. According to the AFP press company [Agence France Presse] there were 20 soldiers killed by the attackers…

The Malian armed forces announced in a report that 29 Malian soldiers had been killed and 5 others were injured. This was the most murderous attack that Mali had experienced in four months.

For almost 10 years now, the country has been under the threat of armed groups that bring mourning to the population and cause great losses in the Malian army.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project on armed conflict locations and events has tracked the increase in terrorist attacks, as reported by Independent Mali:

Détérioration de la situation sécuritaire dans le nord et le centre du Pays: Plus de 1000 morts dont plus de 300 civils depuis janvier 2020

La révélation a été faite par ACLED [Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project], une organisation non gouvernementale spécialisée dans la collecte, l’analyse et la cartographie des données de conflit. Selon cette organisation, malgré la propagation du COVID-19, l’intensité des violences armées au Mali n’a pas baissé d’un cran. Parmi les victimes qui en paient le plus lourd tribut figurent les civils, essentiellement dans les régions dites du Centre.

The worsening of the security situation in the North and center of the country: More than 1000 deaths since January 2020, including 300 civilians.

This revelation was made by ACLED [Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project], a nongovernmental organization that specializes in collecting, analyzing and mapping conflict data. According to this organization, the intensity of the armed violence in Mali has not decreased despite the spread of COVID-19. Civilians, mainly in the so-called central regions, are among the victims who are paying the heaviest price.

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