lunes, 12 de agosto de 2013

The second round of elections in Mali or the dilemma of ruling a failed state

Mali just had the second round of the presidential elections, which are bound to give the sub-saharian country a new political framework. After the results of the first round of the past 28 July 2013, none of the 25 candidates reached the 50% score, therefore heading to the second round on the past Sunday 11 of August instead. Out of the first round the two most voted candidates were confronted, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) with 39.23% in the first place, and Soumaïla Cissé with 19.40% of the ballot.

The pretty tight electoral calendar, which was set just a month in advance, was in fact one of the weak points of this event, as in the first place many thought that either the country simply wasn´t in condition in such a short notice, and second, that the Ouagadougou Agreements, which eventually led to a transitional compromise between the government  and the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) forces in the north, just before, on the 19 June, on the promise of restraining from any activity, and keeping away from urban centers like Kidal in the north, held ever since the uprising by these Touareg rebel group. Nevertheless, other groups, some of them linked to the Al-Qaeda network also operate in the area and in neighboring countries, Niger, Algeria and Mauritania, who are also responsible for the major regional unrest, in what was considered in the past as a safe Democratic safe haven in western Africa.

The feasibility of the elections were also put at stake for another quite powerful reason, that many Malians eligible to vote were either outside the country, probably in some of the many refugee camps in Niger and Burkina, among others, and couldn´t possibly get their documentations on time for the voting,  despite the major effort done by the diplomatic representations of Mali, keen on closing that breach,but  it appears, as if at least 30% of the around 6.8 million voters was unable to produce such documents on time. Then the fact that the task to observe this event gets into a lot of practical issues, when it comes to cover the vast northern portion of the country, specially areas which were for the past year under rebel rule, of the MNLA or the MUJAO, allegedly in touch with the Al-Qaeda.

Anyhow, the result being in process, the real reason behind this race against all odds is in part due to the fact that France, the former ruling colonial power has been present ever since January of the current year, looking to reunite the nation, which was at the brink of collapse just a year ago. The French intervention, given with the approval of the UN Security Council, had an expiry date, in which Paris had to produce a viable, united country under an elected government. This precondition gave the French government no other option than to force by all means these events. As said before, this has been far from idealistic, and still the African Union has given its green light, by stating that there were clean and fair. The again the participation rate of the first round, which accounted for around 50% could possibly not be reached this time, as not only the enthusiasm had dropped since, and added that the climate didn´t really help, with heavy rains by the time of the voting.

The result by now looks quite positive for IBK, who presume the best result in general terms, as  it is the third time he stands as a candidate, before in 2002 and in 2007, as for his experience as prime minister under former president Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT)  among different other positions of responsibility. His next opponent, SoumaÏla Cissé lies with 19% in a much weaker position and is expected to fall back in support, considering the clear advantage IBK has shown in the past round, as for general  estimates of results.

Mali is and remains a country shaken up by several issues at the time. A rebellion in the north, a coup d´état by the general Sanogo, whom by the way still remains in his position of commander in chief. His active participation in the ousting of ATT back in 2012 didn´t made  him lose his post, and as a matter of fact Dioncounda Traoré has had to deal with him all along the line, until a new political framework was set. This is done finally against all security and procedure matters, and in conditions far from the norm.

France is the real player, as it is Paris who is the most interested partner in seeing a newly elected president,  no matter if he can actually govern on the long term. The necessity of having a positive outcome meant for Francois Hollande his reputation, as he entered this war  playground with little margin and a big expectancy of heightening a bit his popularity in his own country. His bet was quite risky, but had at least the propaganda of putting him as a commander in chief of the French Army, and a position of strength he desperately needed, while facing a dropping acceptance by his former voters. Ending the play is at least as important, as commencing it. France does not need a permanent military front, now that money is running short and the deficits eat up the dim growth available. So it is clear, that the choice was made on a political basis, and not with real economic figure.

In the following days the results may arise in the press, as soon as most of the voting recounts as done. In any case with only two candidates left, the chosen one will have a big margin of victory, capable of enabling him to put his house in order. The duties are much, the money few, and the constrains quite overwhelming. In this context, the next president of the Republic of Mali, has more work than glory, whilst the military under the rule of general  Amadou Sanogo, who  is still in his throne, until further notice.

May  the future be bright for the Malian people in this coming time, but the truth is that whomever gets this position, has to prove the ability of handling quite a bit of a mess, which was left behind in the past two years of rebellion and disorder. 

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