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Elections

Joy and anger after Mali's presidential election

Following Mali's presidential election at the weekend initial indications point to a clear victory by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The opposition is angry that official results have not yet been released.

Crowds of mainly young people make their way through the streets of Mali's capital Bamako, waving posters and shouting again and again "IBK." Those are the initials of presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, leader of the party Rally for Mali (RPM) and a former prime minister. The demonstrators don't have much more to say but enthusiastically give the thumbs up sign. For them, IBK is the new president of Mali

Moussa-Sinko-Coulibaly Photo: Katrin Gänsler

Moussa Sinko Coulibaly would not divulge any figures on Tuesday

That's their interpretation of the announcement of provisional results by Minister for Territorial Administration Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly following Sunday's (28.07.2013) presidential election. "There is already a clear trend. There is one candidate, Ibraham Boubacar Keita, who is ahead of the others," he announced. But that's not all. If this lead is confirmed, then IBK has won the absolute majority in the first round of voting.

No concrete figures

Journalists waited for the provisional results all Tuesday afternoon in the ministry for territorial administration. But, despite the 'clear trend' he announced, the minister left the journalists confused. Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly did not give a single figure. And so no one knows if Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has notched up the 50.1-percent needed to claim victory.

As a result, speculation in Bamako has gone into top gear, especially among the opposition. They had already had a fright on Sunday evening, shortly after polling stations closed. One radio station was already predicting an absolute majority for IBK. But then things calmed down again and the candidates declared they would only speak once the official results were released. Now it seems there may be a winner, but still no figures.

'Making problems'

Voter Inna Maiga stands outside the campaign headquarters of opposition candidate Soumaila Cisse. He's the man she voted for and she is still hoping he will make it to a run-off. She's furious at the way the results have been handled so far.

"We called on the minister to name concrete percentages. But he did not do so. That creates problems," she said.

Soumaila Cisse supporter Inna Maiga looking disappointed Photo: Katrin Gänsler

Inna Maiga had hoped to see Soumaila Cisse make it to a run-off

Everything was intended to run smoothly this time. This is the first presidential election since the coup of 22 March 2012 and the long occupation of the north by Islamists and the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). It is seen as a litmus test for Mali's return to democracy.

The importance of transparency

Christopher Fomunyoh, Africa Director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which works to support and strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world, stresses the importance of transparency. The more transparent, credible and fair the elections are, the more likely the results are to be accepted, he says. "But if people get the feeling someone has not played by the rules and is immediately declared the winner, then the Malians will rise up and vent their anger," Fomunyoh told DW.

This is already the case with opposition supporter Inna Maiga. She is "absolutely not in agreement" with what's happened since the elections. She's prepared to go on the streets and demonstrate if necessary. She had hoped that Soumaila Cisse would make it to a run-off. Many other Malians had expected this to be the next step. Not least because voters had a choice of no fewer than 27 candidates, many of whom already held political office and were well known figures throughout Mali. For Soumaila Cisse himself, a run-off was a foregone conclusion.

Election posters on a wall in Bamako. Photo: Katrin Gänsler

The elections are a test for Mali's return to democracy

And the winner is - Mali

Whether this is still a possibility should become clear very soon. Fresh results are expected to be announced on Wednesday (31.07.2013). But there is already one winner – Mali. The elections went off better than expected. Attacks threatened by rebels did not happen and organizational shortcomings were relatively few and far between.

Turnout throughout the country was higher than 53-percent. That's an impressive result for Mali. At the last presidential election in 2007, just 36-percent of the electorate cast their votes. Richard Zink, head of the European Union delegation in Bamako, says this is a good sign. "What the Malians want to say with the high turnout is, I think, clear. They want to say that they are willing to take their destiny into their own hands and that they want a new start."

DW.DE