peter tinti

independent journalist

Election turnout high in Mali on the heels of war and French-led intervention

CS Monitor

Final results may be known as early as tomorrow, as Malians shrug off a coup and chaos and vote with new ‘biometric’ cards.

Bamako, Mali: Still recovering from a radical Islamist insurgency months ago, Mali plunged ahead Sunday with elections that France and the United States had called for as a condition to release some $4 billion in aid.

Ballot counting is now under way after voters in the West African country turned out in unusually large numbers yesterday, with an outcome expected as early as tomorrow.

These presidential elections come 16 months after a military coup in Mali and six months after a French-led military intervention to liberate the desert north from rebel groups linked to Al Qaeda.

Yesterday’s vote is seen as a critical first step for a poor, landlocked country once wrongly considered a model of democracy. And the vote came amid concerns by local officials and several prominent international NGOs that hastily planned elections might further destabilize an already divided nation.

Others warned elections might put civilians at risk of attack from armed rebel groups in the north.

In the neighborhood of Lafiabougou, in the capital Bamako, lines had formed before polls had opened.

At a separate polling station across town in Hippodrome, a steady stream of voters arrived late into the evening.

APEM, a network of 2,100 Malian election observers, said that 96 percent of polling stations had opened on time and that turnout was “high.” Polls closed without reports of any major incidents.

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Mali Holds Elections After Year of Turmoil

New York Times

Under pressure from France and other Western powers, Mali held a presidential election on Sunday that some observers said the country was not ready for and that risked excluding thousands of its citizens.

Voting went off peacefully, nonetheless, in an election that Mali’s numerous donors deemed crucial to restoring the country’s stability after more than a year of turmoil: an Islamist takeover in the desert north in the spring of 2012; a military coup in the capital; French military intervention to forestall Islamist advances in January; and the flight of nearly 200,000 inhabitants beyond Mali’s borders.

Mali, a poor West African desert nation, has been ruled by a makeshift, unelected government since March 2012, with no parliament, few functioning state institutions and a weak, military junta-approved president. Billions of dollars in aid have been promised by international donors but only if the country has at least the appearance of democracy. That meant proceeding to a hasty election that some of the country’s politicians, research institutes like International Crisis Group, and even the country’s electoral commission warned might be premature.

Still, all over Bamako, the capital, on Sunday, long, orderly lines formed, and citizens dipped their fingers in dye to show that they had voted. Many suggested that, however imperfect, the election would put an end to months of uncertainty.

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