A Look at Allegations of Fraud in Mali’s Presidential Elections (First Round)

Last week, I looked at the results from the first round of Mali’s presidential elections (29 July), discussing what those results say about the top two candidates’ prospects in the second round (12 August). Those candidates are the incumbent, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), and long-time opposition candidate (and 2013 runner-up) Soumaïla Cissé.

The results give us a framework for thinking about political realities – whether the results are genuine or not, they reflect something fundamental about the balance of power in the country.* Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that there have been widespread allegations of rigging and tampering.

The question of fraud is intimately linked with questions of insecurity, as some of the key allegations concern suspected box-stuffing in the north and center of the country, where violence is rife. In other words, some of the president’s opponents accuse him of exploiting the insecurity to pad his vote totals in areas where it will be difficult to verify the integrity of the electoral process.

In this connection, it’s worth noting that in various parts of the north and the center, nearly 250,000 voters or over 3% of the electorate weren’t able to vote at all – here, for example, is the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization’s widely-circulated “list of centers and offices where voters were not able to vote.” The overwhelming majority of these voting centers are in the central Mopti region, but some are in the north.

A quick post like this can’t do justice to the complexity and seriousness of these questions, but here is some of what has been said, done, and reported about allegations of fraud:

  • AFP: “The three main opposition candidates in Mali’s presidential election [Cissé, Aliou Diallo, and Cheick Modibo Diarra] announced Sunday they were mounting a legal challenge in the country’s constitutional court alleging ‘ballot box-stuffing’ and other irregularities, after incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took the lead in the first round of the vote last month.”
  • RFI and Le Monde report on a formal condemnation of the first round’s alleged procedural problems by 18 candidates, including the top three opposition figures.
  • Le Monde, in the context of a larger article about electoral process and fraud allegations, discusses the high reported voter turnout in the northern Kidal region (88% turnout, 80% voting for IBK, compared with 43% turnout nationwide and 41% voting for IBK nationally) and in the northern Menaka region (86% turnout, 79% voting for IBK).
  • VOA/AFP have a report from the northern Gao region alleging ballot-box stuffing in nomad (i.e., Tuareg and Arab) zones, although Malian journalist Baba Ahmed criticized the report for foregrounding voices he felt are not representative of the people of Gao.
  • Le Républicain has an article on the pressures facing the Constitutional Court.

For a broader sense of the immediate politics, it’s also well worth reading Olivier Dubois’ recent article on the political atmosphere and the maneuvers of the candidates.

*After all, even if the results are based on rigging, the numbers tell us something about either how much power different factions have to rig or, at the very least, how confident they feel about their rigging.

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