Mali has war in January, elections in July. Is this too much?

by ptinti

CS Monitor

Malians vote Sunday with new biometric ID cards in a quickly cobbled-together election that some call ‘shambolic’ and others say is needed.

Bamako, Mali: The West African nation of Mali will hold presidential elections this Sunday, less than seven months after the French military intervened to drive Islamist rebels linked to Al Qaeda in the country’s north.

The West African nation of Mali will hold presidential elections this Sunday, less than seven months after the French military intervened to drive Islamist rebels linked to Al Qaeda in the country’s north.

As Malians prepare to go to the polls, however, a chaotic voter-registration process and lingering security concerns call into question whether the elections will be truly free and fair.

Mali’s interim government and the international community are betting that expedited elections that they have both pushed will help Mali move forward after nearly 18 months of instability.

Speaking to reporters in Paris earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon went so far as to say, “The results, even if the election is imperfect, must be respected by all parties.”

With Mali and the broader Sahel increasingly viewed as a place where Al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as drug traffickers, may try to take advantage of porous borders and weak states, Mali stands as a test case for the international community’s commitment to the region.

Yet many commentators fear that rushed elections risk further destabilizing an already divided nation, and worry that the international community, particularly France and the United States, are favoring elections and the appearance of democracy over stability and good governance.

One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the elections as a “calculated gamble,” suggesting that delaying the vote would “do little to fix any of the current problems and would potentially pave the way for new ones.”

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