According to provisional results announced by the government on Tuesday, the party of Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and its allies, have won the West African country’s parliamentary elections.
Minister of Territorial Administration Moussa Sinko Coulibaly announced on state television that the Rally for Mali (RPM) party, along with its junior partners, had secured 115 of the 147 seats in the national assembly following a second round of voting that occurred on Sunday. The minister further noted that the exact breakdown was still being worked out. The Union for the Republic of Democracy (URD), the party of beaten presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse, will have between 17 and 19 members in the new parliament, effectively allowing Cisse to become the leader of the opposition. While the official results will be confirmed by the country’s constitutional court in the coming days, it appears that the RPM party have made good on a promise to deliver “a comfortable majority” to smooth the path for reforms that the president plans to put in place in order to rebuild Mali’s stagnant economy and to ease the ethnic tensions that are still an issue in the northern region of the country. Turnout for the second round of voting reached 37.3 percent, a drop from the 38.6 percent that was achieved during the first round, which itself was deemed disappointing by local and international officials. The second round of parliamentary voting was Mali’s fourth nationwide ballot in less than five months, with some observers blaming voting fatigue for the low turnout. Despite a terrorist attack being carried out the day before the elections, there were no serious incidents reported during the ten hours of voting however many voters were believed to have stayed away because of the recent upsurge in rebel attacks against African troops tasked with election security alongside French and Malian soldiers. On Saturday, two Senegalese UN peacekeepers were killed, and seven others wounded, when a suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden car into a bank they were guarding in the northeastern town of Kidal. The elections mark the completion of Mali’s return to democracy after the country was upended by a coup last year. Louis Michel, the European Union’s chief election observer in Mali indicated on Monday that his team had positively evaluated 98 percent of the 705 polling stations observed during the election. He further noted that the “legal framework” for the polls “remains aligned with international standards for democratic elections.”
Meanwhile officials reported on Tuesday that militants had shelled a camp, where French troops and the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping force are stationed, in northern Mali. According to military sources, “two shells were fired Monday night by unidentified persons at the Kidal camp for French troops and MINUSMA,” adding that there was “no damage or casualties.” The attack was later confirmed by a French military source stationed in Mali who indicated that the shells passed safely over the camp, missing their targets. The attack comes amidst an upsurge in violence in Mali’s north.
Mali’s presidential elections have been won by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after his rival admitted defeat just one day after the second round of elections were held.
Although official results have not been announced, former Malian Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse conceded defeat against ex-Prime Minister (1994 – 2002) Keita on Monday, announcing that he had “went to see him to congratulate him and wish him good luck for Mali.” His defeat came hours after electoral and security sources had indicated that Mr. Keita had pulled ahead with two-thirds of the votes counted after Sunday’s second round of the election. This was confirmed by Mr. Cisses’ spokesman, who indicated that his candidate had admitted defeat after it became clear the Mr. Keita had won the polls in Gao, which is the largest town in northern Mali. Both Mr. Keita and Mr. Cisse had lost out in the 2002 presidential elections to Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown by a military junta in March of last year, just weeks before the end of his final term in office. Mr. Keita will now face the daunting task of rebuilding a country that is still reeling from more than a year of turmoil.
During weeks of campaigning, Mr. Keita became known for his blunt speech, his refusal to compromise and his reputation for toughness. Throughout his campaign, he vowed to unify Mali if elected, stating that “for Mali’s honor, I will bring peace and security. I will revive dialogue between all the sons of our nation and I will gather our people around the values that have built our history: dignity, integrity, courage and hard work.” His top priority will be to secure lasting peace for northern Mali, which has seen five violent rebellions since the country gained its independence from France in 1960. The 68-year-old will now oversee more than US $4 billion (£2.6 billion) in foreign aid promised to rebuild the country after a turbulent eighteen months. The new government which he will lead will also be obliged to open peace talks with the separatist Tuareg rebels within two months following a ceasefire that enabled voting to take place in the northern regions of the country. Cementing national reconciliation will likely be a challenge for the newly formed government as many in the southern regions of the country continue to be hostile towards funneling more of Mali’s already scarce resources to a region they see as being responsible for the country’s plight. In turn, there is a continued unease between a number of ethnic groups, not only between the north and south, but also within the north itself.
The European Union’s election observation mission has given the elections a positive assessments, stating that it complied with international standards in “99 percent” of Mali’s polling stations. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has welcomed what she calls “a credible and transparent” election. A statement released by her office also noted that the EU pledged to support efforts to “build a durable peace and restore national unity” in the West African country. Meanwhile the United States has signaled that it was prepared to resume aid to Mali following the election. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, hailed Mali’s interim government for “securing a peaceful and orderly environment in which Malians were able to vote,” further adding that “we’ve made clear that following the return of a democratically elected government, we will seek to normalize our foreign assistance to Mali.” The United States was legally forces to suspend military aid to Mali after the coup in March of last year.
Vote-counting in Mali is currently underway just one day after a presidential election run-off took place, which is expected to provide a fresh start to the troubled West African state. The election, the first to occur since 2007, is seen as crucial in order to unlock more than US $4 billion in aid.
On Sunday, people throughout Mali made their way through heavy rain in order to vote in the presidential run-off that is aimed at restoring democracy and stability after more than a year of turmoil. An electorate of seven million had the choice between former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who won 40% during the first round of voting, and ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse, who won nearly 20% of the vote. Mali’s 21,000 polling stations opened at 08:00 GMT and closed at 18:00 GMT.
Louis Michel, the head of the European Union’s election observation mission, has indicated that there was “absolutely nothing doubtful or suspicious to report” and that voting had taken place “in good conditions, in a serene, quiet atmosphere,” adding that “whoever is elected will be elected with democratic legitimacy. That is my belief.”
The interim government has until this Friday to make the results of the run-off public, however some observers expect that an announcement may be made sooner. Early signs have indicated that Mr. Keita will likely win the elections. The country of more than 14 million remains the continent’s third-largest gold producer however its US $10.6 billion economy contracted by 1.2 percent last year as widespread poverty contributed to the unrest in the northern regions of the country last year.
Meanwhile in Somalia, reports have emerged that al-Shabaab militants have stolen £480,000 (US $750,00) worth of British government-funded humanitarian materials in supplies. The supplies were in warehouses and were captured during a raid by al-Shabaab militants in 2011 and 2012, however no information on what particular supplies were stolen has been released. The theft, which was revealed in the fine print of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) annual accounts, is likely to fuel concerns pertaining to how Britain is spending its foreign aid at a time when the country is experiencing budget cuts at home.
The accounts describe the “theft between November 2011 and February 2012, by al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, of DFID funded humanitarian materials and supplies from the offices and warehouses of partner or organizations, to which DFID had provided funding to deliver projects and programmes.” The accounts further note that “the DFID’s partners had no prior warning of the confiscations being carried out and therefore had no time to prevent the loss by relocating goods.” The loss, which comes out of more than £80 million of aid that was allocated to Somalia in 2012 – 2013, appears in this year’s accounts because the investigation was only completed in the past twelve months.
In response to the reports, Gerald Howarth, a lawmaker in Prime MInister David Cameroon’s Conservative party, has stated that the theft raised concerns about how this money was being spent, indicating that “there is a huge public concern at the relentless increase in overseas aid. Incidents like this, where British taxpayers‘ money is diverted into people fighting agains us, re not acceptable.”
A spokesman for the DFID has stated that there are always risks with working in unstable countries such as Somalia, but that it was doing everything it could to stop such thefts from occurring. A statement released by the DFID indicated that the company “works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.” The statement further added that “working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DFID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.”