Fraud claims taint Mali election, amid concerns over undue haste
Thousands reported to have been left off electoral register
Reports of thousands of people left off the electoral register, ongoing security concerns and allegations of voter fraud have fuelled concerns that Mali is rushing into the elections. Photograph: Reuters/Joe Penney
Widespread flaws in Mali’s election preparations threaten to undermine confidence in the outcome of Sunday’s vote.
Reports of thousands of people left off the register, ongoing security concerns and allegations of voter fraud have fuelled concerns that Mali is rushing into the elections, six months after an international military intervention drove al-Qaeda-linked rebels from control of the country’s north.
“This election has been plagued by difficulties,” said Cheick Toure, a Bamako resident who has campaigned for one of the 27 election candidates. “Even as we fight to win this election, we are not sure what will happen and whether the result will really hold.”
Western donors, who acted swiftly after a military coup toppled Mali’s civilian regime last March and have insisted on a return to democratic rule according to a strict timetable, have made stg£3 billion (€3.48 billion) in aid conditional on the elections going ahead.
But Mali’s seven million voters will have to complete a new biometric registration process and receive a voter’s card with a national identification number (Nina) in far less time than the process has taken in other west African countries.
Yesterday one Malian newspaper reported claims of voter fraud in the new system. One presidential candidate, Soumaila Cisse, of the URD, wrote on Twitter: “I have learned of massive fraud involving more than 1.9 million Nina cards.”
According to figures obtained by journalists from the National Independent Electoral Commission, the voter database includes no 18-year-olds, almost no voters from hundreds of villages, only 39 voters based in Morocco – an important destination for Malian migrants – and less than 5 per cent of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled to neighbouring countries amid last year’s conflict.
Northern Mali remains unstable, with continuing incidents involving Tuareg separatists who still hold de facto control in the far northern region of Kidal but have allowed in government troops following a recent peace agreement. A group of election officials were kidnapped at gunpoint in Kidal this week, and later freed.
Humanitarian groups have warned of a food and drinking water crisis in the country, where 500,000 people remain internally displaced and 1.4 million are reliant on food aid.
“From a humanitarian perspective we are increasingly concerned about the situation,” said Elias Fon, Islamic Relief’s regional co-ordinator for west Africa. “Food and clean water are in very short supply, and urgent action is needed to address these challenges.”
The government denied that Mali was not ready to vote. “Things are not going as badly as some people make out,” said General Ibrahim Diallo, of the ministry of civil protection and internal security. “We have had a few problems, like everywhere where there are elections, but the elections will go ahead and we are ready.”
– (Guardian service)