About 6.5 million voters trooped out to elect members of the 147-seat national parliament in Mali on November 24
| By Maureen Chigbo |
MORE than 1,100 candidates took part in the November 24, parliamentary into the 147-seat national parliament. Mali, a largely conservative country with a rich tradition and culture, has an estimated population of 16.5 million people. According to the National Electoral Commission figures, out of the 6.5 million voters registered to cast their ballots in more than 20,000 polling centres, 3.3 million are women.
To ensure a successful exercise, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Commission will deployed a 100-strong observation mission to monitor the polls. The mission was led by Amos Claudius Sawyer, a professor and former president of Liberia’s Interim Government of National Unity. The mission, comprising election experts from national election commissions of member states, ECOWAS Ambassadors and Council of the Wise, as well as representatives of civil society organisations, among others, were deployed to most of the country’s regions.
Bamako served as the operations centre for the mission, whose members were adequately briefed before deployment across the country. The deployment of the mission by Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, was in compliance the framework of relevant protocols empowering the commission to assist member states holding elections as a means of deepening democracy and good governance in the region.
Following the return of relative peace characterised by the successful July/August presidential polls, which were also monitored by ECOWAS and other international observers, the country’s ruling and opposition parties formed political alliances to field candidates. This development was designed to protect the fragile peace after a protracted security and political crises that engulfed the country.
According to political pundits, a successful parliamentary election will mark the end of the political transition facilitated by ECOWAS and help the country consolidate peace, national healing and the process of national unity, reconstruction and recovery after the crises, which ECOWAS and international partners played a major part in resolving.
Sawyer has appealed for peaceful parliamentary polls in Mali on Sunday to consolidate the progress made towards the restoration of constitutional order and the country’s territorial integrity. Speaking to journalists shortly after his arrival in Bamako on Thursday, November 21, Sawyer, former President of Liberia’s Interim Government of National Unity, urged Malian political parties, the electorate and other stakeholders to replicate the political maturity they demonstrated during the recent successful presidential elections in the country.
He explained that ECOWAS attached great importance to the parliamentary election in demonstration of its determination to accompany Mali along the process of ending its political transition facilitated by the regional organization following the country’s political and security crises.
“That is the reason we are here because what happens in Mali affects everyone in our region,” said the head of mission, who was received by Ambassador Aboudou Toure Cheaka, ECOWAS Commission president’s special representative to Mali.
He urged Malians to turn out massively for the election. The head of mission said the regional observers would be deployed to all the country’s eight regions, with the UN Mission, MINUSMA offering to assist with the airlift of observers to the northern regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. He commended President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for his government’s commitment to national reconciliation, noting that Mali was on the right path to regaining its prime position and role in the region.
Later at a briefing for the observers, Sawyer urged them to maintain neutrality, and demonstrate a high sense of professionalism with strict adherence to regional guidelines and regulations governing poll observation.
On security, he said they should see their task as “an opportunity for the display of solidarity with our Malian brothers and sisters,” for the deepening of democracy and good governance in the country and the region.
Cheaka and the ECOWAS director for Political Affairs, Abdel-Fatau Musah provided the observers with the historical and political background of the Malian crises and outlined ECOWAS’proactive involvements in the resolution of the conflict. The observers were also given security briefing ahead of their deployment.
Meanwhile, ahead of the poll, Sawyer met with heads of other observation missions and Malian political stakeholders including the General Delegate to the Election and the National Electoral Commission as well as MINUSMA officials. On Election Day, he will visit some of the 20,000 polling centres to observe the electoral process as more than 6.5 million registered voters from Mali’s estimated 16.5 million population cast their ballots. The country’s electoral code provides for a second round of voting to be decided by a majority vote in a situation where no independent candidate or list of coalition candidates scored the mandatory 50% plus one vote in the first round.
— Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT