By Rida Lyammouri
July 30th, 2018
State run TV station announced some satisfaction about conditions of the elections throughout most of the country. However also pointed out to different types of incidents that either disrupted the event or prevented people from voting at all. For instance, several offices were ransacked by unknown gunmen in Central Region and people were not able to vote. Absence of electoral agents prevented voting in 10 voting centers in Ségou and Timbuktu Regions. 61 offices never opened due to insecurity in Mopti and Timbuktu Regions. According to Malian authorities no vote took place in at least 644 elections offices due to different acts of violence. Furthermore announced that voting was disrupted in at least 3988 other offices. According to Morgane Le Cam, journalist who has been covering the elections, tweeted that 81 percent of closed voting offices due to insecurity were located in Mopti Region, 13.4 percent on Timbuktu Region, and 5.4 percent in Ségou Region. Refugees in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger were reported to have been able to vote according to impressive live coverage by sahelien.com.
This was expected, at least for observers following the Malian and regional conflicts very closely. Security situation in Mopti Region have deteriorated not only due to militant groups like JNIM (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen), but also to tensions between local communities. No major incidents related to militant groups took place the day of elections with the exception of intimidation acts and rocket attack in Aguelhoc, Kidal Region. Alleged members of militant group JNIM threatened and warned local population from voting in different location in Mopti Region. JNIM also claimed responsibility of launching rockets on MINUSMA base in Aguelhoc during elections day. In the statement (see the claim #83) JNIM stated that this is an indication that the fight will continue against the French and its collaborators until Shari’a wins, and these elections don’t mean anything.
At this stage it’s too early to predict who is going to win, however; there is strong possibility of second round. Soumaila Cissé is the strongest challenger to current president Ibrahim Boubakar Keita. Again, this is just a prediction based on early counts coming in, remains to be seen. Overall, today’s elections occurred in less violent conditions compared to 2016 municipal elections when several offices were burned and voting boxes destroyed. Also, no major incidents recorded in Ménaka and Kidal Regions where State has limited to no presence.
These are crucial moments for Mali and the Malian people, whatever the outcome of these elections is, the focus should be on what’s ahead. Any elections related violence will further delegitimize state credibility not only in the north and center of the country but also in the south. The government will also lose credibility among the opposition and armed groups signatories of the peace accord. As a result causing further instability throughout the country and delay in implementing the peace process. Something militant groups, like JNIM will exploit further to its narrative highlighted by Iyad Ag Ghali, that these elections are useless and only used to serve the usual beneficiaries and not the Malian people. This is an opportunity for Malian political elites to show willingness and leadership to move the country forward and delegitimize JNIM and other spoilers.