By Terfa Hemen
The Malian government declared a work free day to allow for adequate preparation for the July 28th Elections. You may recall that Mali in the last year, the country experienced a Coup d ‘etat and insurgency until French Intervention in reclaiming most parts of the Northern Mali since January, 2013. But alas, the much awaited election is under way with Malian Capital, Bamako agog with political campaigns. All over the city, supporters of the 27 candidates vying for the presidential ticket are engaged in last minute campaign spanning rallies with long convoys of cars, motorbikes adorned with posters of their presidential candidates.
The regional Bloc, ECOWAS is also actively involved in the elections; its 250 observers have been deployed into the country to monitor the elections. Some of the observers will have to travel over eight hours by road to their places of deployment while there still remains some level of uncertainty about the Kidal region. ECOWAS and other international observer groups are being careful of deploying into the region until full clearance is received.
The mood of the Malians are mixed, while some are very happy that the elections would be holding on Sunday, some are concerned the elections are coming a bit early and there are gaps in the process of organising these elections that may irk some people at the end of the elections. This view is further buttressed during our visit to the headquarters of one of the leading Presidential candidates. His campaign team cited a newspaper report alleging the printing of fake voters’ card for distribution to citizens as a means of fraudulently manipulating the elections. They further alleged plans by supporters of some candidates to perpetrate post election violence should in case their candidate loses the election.
In all these is the likelihood of low voters’ turnout as a result of the ongoing Ramadan fasting. However this remains left to be determined after final polling as the enthusiasm exhibited by Malians in Bamako depicts the likelihood of a country with citizens ready to go to the polls to elect their new leaders. However this belief of mine was strongly challenged by a Ghanaian colleague who has lived in Bamako for some time, according to him even in times of peace the country barely managed a 40 percent voter’s turn out let alone with the strife and Ramadan. However, what is very clear is that with the 27 candidates vying for the presidency, with three candidates as favourites coupled with the political bifurcation, the elections is likely to go into second round, as no clear winner may emerge in this first round.
What remains obvious since arrival in Bamako six days ago is the wish of Malians for peace and stability at the end of the elections no matter who wins. The unity of the country and peace for them is most important having just emerged from a crisis situation that has caused lot of hardship for the people especially in the North of Mali. For them peace has to be sustained for the country to move forward, their message is that Malians should eschew acts that would throw the country back into crises.
With less than a day to the elections expectations are high, for the Malians who have the opportunity to vote for the first time the wait is too long, for the Presidential candidates the chance to lead their country looms larger and they can’t wait any longer, for the organisers of the elections they cannot wait for the elections to start in light of all the challenges they have faced. For Africa and the rest of the world they cannot wait for Malians to once again start this journey of democracy which at this time is the first step towards proper reconciliations in a country full of divisions among the populace. The world awaits the elections.
Terfa Hemen Reporting for CDD West Africa from Bamako, Mali.