Similarities between Mali and Zimbabwe polls

Soumaila Cisse, leader of URD, talks with others leaders as they attend a joint news conference of opposition candidates in Mali’s presidential election, in Bamako

The presidential poll in Mali last Sunday and the general election in Zimbabwe the following day had several things in common.

By Ciugu Mwaguru

Unfortunately, these included the fact that both were tense affairs, with an undercurrent of violence.

The Zimbabwe elections were the first since Robert Mugabe, 94, was ousted in November, while the Mali presidential election was the second since a 2012 coup.

In Mali, it was the first time since the advent of democracy in 1991 that an election was organised while the incumbent president was not assured of victory.

The elections in the two countries were took place in a busy week during which a controversial referendum was held in Comoros, with the vote counting beginning on Monday.

More than 8.4 million voters were expected to cast their ballots in the controversial plebiscite, widely criticised by the opposition.

MILITANT ATTACKS

Except for suspected militant attacks on some areas the exercise went peacefully.

According to opposition leaders, the referendum was aimed at changing the constitution with a view to removing the presidential term limits.

That, they argued, would enable President Azali Assoumani to rule beyond 2021 when his term should expire.

There were some differences in the Mali and Zimbabwe poll though.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner. That was not the case in Mali.

With results for all the 10 provinces declared, Mnangagwa reportedly garnered 50.8 percent of the votes, ahead of Nelson Chamisa’s 44.3 percent.

ENOUGH VOTES

According to preliminary figures provided by the Malian Government, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita did not get enough votes to win a second term in office.

The Ministry of Territorial Administration said Keita won 41.4 percent of the vote while veteran rival Cissé had 17.8 percent.

The country is set for a runoff, scheduled for August 12.

In Zimbabwe the 5.7 million registered voters cast their ballots at 10,985 polling stations.

The electorate was voting in a presidential contest that had 23 hopefuls, all first time contenders.

It was was the largest number of candidates to gun for the country’s top seat since the end of white-minority rule in 1980.

Unfortunately, they were participating in a poll described by some observers as being fraught with intimidation of voters.

CHOOSE 210 MEMBERS

Leading the pack was Mnangagwa, the ruling Zanu-PF party candidate, whose top challenger was Chamisa, 40, of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance.

Apart from directly electing a president, Zimbabweans were expected to choose 210 members of parliament and more than 9,000 councillors.

In accordance with the country’s proportional representation system, 60 women are to be appointed to the House of Assembly and another 60 people to the upper Senate chamber.

In Mali, 73-year-old Keita was seeking re-election while facing 27 challengers, led by Soumaila Cissé, 68. The latter is a former finance and economy minister who incidentally lost by a wide margin in the 2013 election that brought Keita to power.

President Keita won that last election in a runoff, decisively trouncing Cissé with 78 percent of the vote.

Concerning electoral violence, an unfortunate characteristic of past polls in the two countries, the situation was particularly alarming in Zimbabwe.

VIOLENCE

True to form, the elections were marred by deadly violence.

The Wednesday protests by opposition supporters in Harare led to six deaths. In Mali, where security was a central campaign issue, there was widespread chaos also.

The poll was disrupted by suspected militants, with observers and election officials attacked and polling centres destroyed.

At the same time, armed groups banned state administrators from some villages and prevented thousands from voting, amid allegations by the opposition of irregularities.

According to the Ministry of Territorial Administration, the attackers shut down 644 polling stations on Sunday, with most of the violence occurring in the north and centre of the vast desert country.

Gratefully, though, unlike in Zimbabwe the violence in Mali did not lead to casualties.

Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)