Voters in the West African nation of Mali will go to the polls this weekend for legislative elections that may offer insight into the country’s uncertain political trajectory. Mali descended into chaos last year, when a coup d’etat in the country’s south paved the way for Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida to take over the northern two-thirds of the country.
In late-July, Malians turned out in record numbers for a presidential election that the international community—particularly, France and the U.S.—had been calling for as a condition for unlocking nearly $4 billion in pledged assistance. That election came just six months after a French-led military intervention drove the mosaic of Islamist and Tuareg nationalist rebels from their northern strongholds. Despite calls for delays by prominent NGOs and some local politicians who feared that a rushed vote might further destabilize the country, the election was ultimately deemed free and fair by international observers.
But serious questions remain regarding Mali’s political transition, and lingering security concerns in the north have many analysts wondering if Mali—once wrongly considered a model democracy in Africa—is actually on a viable path to stability, or rushing headlong back toward the failed “politics as usual” that characterized the pre-coup period.
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