Mali 2013

Presidential and legislative elections were held in Mali on July 28 and August 11 (presidential runoff) 2013. These elections were originally scheduled to be held in April 2012, but a military coup in March 2012 and the ensuing political chaos and civil war in northern Mali meant that the elections were delayed by over a year.

Mali is a presidential republic, with the President serving as head of state. He is directly elected to a five-year term, renewable once. He appoints a Prime Minister who is head of government – unlike in France, it doesn’t seem like he’s responsible to the legislature. Mali’s unicameral legislature is the National Assembly, made of 160 members. 147 seats are elected in single or multi-member constituencies using a two round system. Malians living abroad are represented by 13 legislators selected in separate polling. The legislature serves a five-year term.

Context: Mali since 1960

Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, placing 182 out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, with a very low score of 0.34 (for comparison, the US’ HDI is 0.94 and Canada’s is 0.91). 79% of the Malian population lives under $2 a day. Although a lot has been said about the correlation between high income/GDP per capita and democracy, Mali somewhat disproves that idea. Although it’s one of the world’s poorest countries, Mali has been a fairly democratic state, although fledgling and often imperfect, since the 1990s. Before the 2012 coup set the country back, Mali was classified as ‘free’ by the Freedom in the World reports between 1999 and 2012, although with the military coup it tumbled to ‘not free’ in the 2013 report.

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Mali has had three political eras: single-party socialist rule, single-party military rule and fledgling multiparty democracy.

In 1958 and 1959, the local political leaders of the ‘French Sudan’ (as present-day Mali was then known), spearheaded by Modibo Keïta and his Sudanese Union-African Democratic Rally (US-RDA) favoured a federal union of France’s West African possessions, a position backed by Senegal (and, at the outset, by leaders in Upper Volta and Dahomey) but opposed by Côte-d’Ivoire’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who supported the territorial independence of each West African country – fearing that his wealthier country would become a ‘cash cow’ for its poorer neighbors. After the creation of the confederal ‘French Community’ with the 1958 French constitution, the French Sudan gained internal autonomy. In April 1959, French Sudan and Senegal – led by Léopold Sédar Senghor – united to form the Mali Federation, associated with France until it gained full independence in June 1960.

The federation of Senegal and French Sudan proved very shortlived, collapsing within two months on the back of tensions between Modibo Keïta and Sédar Senghor. Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, and the French Sudan gained independence as Mali, a name which refers to the Mali Empire, a prestigious West African empire (c 1230-c 1600) which made its wealth through regional and trans-Saharan trade.

Modibo Keïta became the President of the new Republic of Mali and quickly created a single-party socialist state. With the idea of ‘economic decolonization’, Keïta pushed for the modernization and collectivization of agriculture – which has remained Mali’s main economic activity. The regime created ‘collective fields’ in each villages, where villagers were forced to grow crops (largely cereals) which they then sold to the state at very low prices. The state wanted to control the supply of food to cities at low prices and hold a monopoly over exports. In 1962, Mali withdrew from the CFA Franc currency and created its own currency, the non-convertible Malian Franc, which further incensed Malian traders, already rather peeved by the state holding a monopoly over exports. In July 1962, a large demonstration by traders was violently crushed and its leaders put on trial.

Collectivization also proved unpopular with farmers, who turned – along with traders – to the black market, further weakening the new country’s economy.

Modibo Keïta was a pan-Africanist and a socialist. Internationally, Keïta’s Mali joined the ranks of the non-aligned movement and enjoyed close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Yugoslavia, India, Nasser’s Egypt, Gaddafi’s Libya and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. He also supported the FLN in the Algerian War. Relations with the former colonial power, France, and its former federal counterpart, Senegal, were strained in the first years. That being said, Modibo Keïta never really broke all bridges with France: he signed economic agreements with France in 1963 and 1968. Relations with Senegal, strained since 1960, improved by 1963, leading to the reopening of the crucial rail link between Bamako (Mali) and Dakar (Senegal) – which Mali had closed in 1960.

Modibo Keïta’s regime became increasingly authoritarian after 1962. That same year, until 1964, the Malian government faced the first Tuareg insurgency in northern Mali, inhabited by the nomadic (Berber) Tuareg people who have opposed southern (black) domination of Malian government since independence. In the last years of his regime, Keïta cracked down on nascent opposition, centralized decision-making within the US-RDA and created a paramilitary militia with the aim of ‘transforming’ Malian society along the lines of China’s Cultural Revolution.

In November 1968, Modibo Keïta was overthrown in a military coup led by military officers, among whom was Moussa Traoré, a lieutenant who rose through the ranks of the ruling junta to become head of state and finally sideline his rivals by 1971. Under Moussa Traoré, who became a colonel in October 1971, Mali was a single-party police state/military regime. Traoré is harder to pin down ideologically than Modibo Keïta; his ideology was close to that of hundreds of other dictators without clear ideological orientations except remaining in power and cracking down on those who don’t want you to stay in power. Like the US-RDA before it, Traoré’s single-party moved to control opposition by coopting potential opponents, rivals and civil society groups in corporatist fashion.

Traoré dismantled most of Keïta’s socialist policies, liberalizing cereal marketing, creating incentives for private businesses and negotiating a structural adjustment program from the IMF. The government’s economic policies were unpopular with farmers, who felt that the government wanted to forcibly integrate them into the global capitalist economy, by focusing on cash crops whose exports provided the government with cash. The country also suffered a major drought in 1973-1974.

Moussa Traoré was not really a sanguinary dictator with psychopathic tendencies. In 1978-1980, he moved against the hardliners in the military elite and put them on trial. At the same time, he showed some signs of political liberalization, albeit short-lived.

By 1977 and until his fall in 1991, Traoré’s main opposition came from students and their independent union. There was a large student-led strike in late 1979, to which the regime responded by forcibly conscripting the students into the military. When their mothers took the streets to denounce their sons’ conscription, the police opened fire on the crowd. When the students took to the streets a few months later in March 1980, the regime arrested their leader, who was tortured before dying in captivity.

By 1990, Traoré’s regime was slowly foundering. The structural adjustment policies (austerity) which he had adopted with the IMF were unpopular with large swathes of the population. The second Tuareg insurgency began in June 1990; the government harshly repressed the Tuareg rebellion and imposed a state of emergency in the north.

In October 1990, the opposition formed the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA). Large anti-government and pro-democracy demonstrations, rallying thousands of people in Bamako, took place in December 1990. The movement reignited in March 1991, when student leaders – now backed by government workers and other social groups – organized large rallies in Bamako which quickly turned to all-out rioting. On March 26, 1991, dissident military officers led by Lt. Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré arrested Moussa Traoré and created a new military junta which promised to organize a democratic transition, alongside civilian democratic organizations.

Multiparty democracy was recognized in late 1991 and voters approved a new democratic constitution in January 1992. In April 1992, a ‘national pact’ was signed with the Tuareg rebels in Bamako, in which the Malian government promised to integrate rebels into the military or employ them in the government administration; northern Mali (called Azawad by the Tuaregs) was promised some form of self-determination.

After local and legislative elections in the first months of 1992, a free presidential election was held in April. The ADEMA’S Alpha Oumar Konaré, a former political activist and political leader, handily won the second round with 69%, against 31% for the US-RDA’s Tiéoulé Mamadou Konaté.

Alpha Oumar Konaré held office until 2002. He is generally seen as a successful leader, who managed Mali’s democratic transition and implemented several economic and political (decentralization) reforms during his two terms in office. Mali’s democracy faced a first hiccup in the 1997 elections, which the opposition boycotted after legislative elections in April 1997 under new electoral laws proved chaotic and mismanaged. The opposition’s boycott created a chaotic political situation, in which political violence ran high. Alpha Oumar Konaré obviously won reelection with only token opposition, although turnout was extremely low. He managed to successfully complete his second five-year term in 2002.

Amadou Toumani Touré, widely known in Mali as ‘ATT’, retired from the military in late 2001 to run in the 2002 elections as an independent candidate, on a platform of national unity. ATT won 28.9% in the first round, against 21.4% for ADEMA’s official candidate, former cabinet minister Soumaïla Cissé and 21.2% for Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), who had served as Prime Minister between 1994 and 2000 before splitting from ADEMA to create his own party, the Rally for Mali (RPM). IBK contested his third place finish; eventually, the Constitutional Court invalidated over 500,000 ballots citing irregularities, but these were not enough to push IBK into second. In the runoff, IBK backed ATT, who defeated Cissé with 65% of the votes.

ATT’s governance was based on consensus with other political parties. He forged an alliance with ADEMA and his former opponent Soumaïla Cissé, who endorsed him in the 2007 election, while his former supported IBK ran against him in 2007. Running on a record of strong economic growth (5-7%) and consensus, ATT was handily reelected by the first round with 71% of the votes against 19.2% against IBK. The opposition cried foul and denounced irregularities, but quickly backed down after realizing that even with irregularities, ATT would still have had no trouble winning – just with a slightly reduced margin.

Mali’s 2012-2013 war and foreign intervention

The past year and few months in Mali have been particularly chaotic and complicated. On January 17, 2012, Tuareg rebels attacked a Malian military outpost at Ménaka in northern Mali, effectively kicking off the third (or fourth or whatever, we’ve lost count) Tuareg insurgency.

Many people blame Gaddafi’s overthrow in Libya and the spillover of Islamic terrorism in the Sahara/Sahel region for the conflict. Indeed, many Tuaregs had fled Mali beginning in the 1970s and, during the Libyan Civil War in 2011, many Tuaregs signed up as mercenaries for Gaddafi’s regime. With Gaddafi’s fall, they flooded back into Mali with weapons and took on the government. Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, a hardline Tuareg rebel who moved to Libya in 2008-2009, hatched a master plan to give the Tuareg rebels military capacities to wage a successful war against Mali. When the wind started turning against Gaddafi, the Tuaregs started pilfering Libyan weapons, broke their alliance of convenience with Gaddafi and moved back to Libya.

However, Gaddafi’s overthrow only provided opportunities for the Tuareg rebels; the cause of their insurgency is the same as that of past north (Tuareg)-south conflicts in Mali since 1962. Between 1992 and 2012, Mali enjoyed uneasy peace under the auspices of the 1992 ‘national pact’ between Tuaregs and the government. The government largely proceeded to ignore most of its promises, while a few ‘refusenik’ Tuareg warlords kept fighting and kept the flame of rebellion alive. In October 2011, Tuareg rebel leaders founded the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

To further complicate the equation, the conflict also includes a handful of Islamist organization, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Sometime in 2011, a Tuareg rebel and veteran of past insurgencies, Iyad Ag Ghali, who had turned towards Islamist fundamentalism, split from the secular MNLA and created the Islamist Ansar Dine, which wants to impose sharia law in Azawad. Ansar Dine is suspected of having close ties with AQIM, an Al-Qaeda ‘affiliate’ which was, prior to its rebranding in 2007, an Algerian-based Salafist terrorist organization. Between 2007 and 2012, AQIM gained notoriety in Mali, Algeria and France for a number of suicide attacks and hostage takings (including European tourists, humanitarian workers, businessmen, suspected mercenaries etc). AQIM is also suspected of being involved in drug trafficking rings in West Africa.

The links between the MNLA and Iyad Ag Ghali led many to draw wider ties between the ostensibly secular nationalists in the MNLA and the Islamist terrorists, including AQIM. The Malian government has been keen on playing on this rhetoric, to discredit the Tuareg rebels, and the international media led by the AFP has been gobbling the Malian government’s stories of MNLA-AQIM collusion wholesale. As this fantastic article explains, it’s more complicated than that. The MNLA has denied any ties to AQIM, and has insisted that part of its fight is to rid its northern homeland of AQIM. In fact, the MNLA claims that AQIM are in fact secretely backed by the Malian government. Mali’s military has been fighting a dirty war against the MNLA but also Tuareg and Arab civilians for years now, as the above article explains in much detail, with the formation of paramilitary groups engaged in brutal indiscriminate ethnic warfare, and collusion with unsavoury actors including drug traffickers. The MNLA says that Bamako turned a blind eye to AQIM’s terrorist attacks and provided them with a safe haven in northern Mali. There seems to be some good reasons to believe that Mali was indeed being complacent with AQIM and had a non-aggression pact with them, much to the frustration of Paris and Washington, who have pumped millions into Mali for counterterrorism purposes. WikiLeaks cable confirmed that the US believed that Mali was tolerating or colluding with AQIM.

Between January and March 2012, the Malian military suffered a number of setbacks against the well-trained and heavily armed MNLA troops, who may or may not have been working in tandem with AQIM and/or Ansar Dine. Military morale was its lowest point, and the army demanded more supplies and resources to fight the rebellion. Many criticized outgoing President ATT for his alleged moderation and ‘softness’ in dealing with the rebellion. ATT maintained that presidential elections, in which he could not run in because he was term-limited, would go ahead on April 29.

Between March 21 and 22, some military lower-ranking officers led by captain Amadou Haya Sanogo overthrew ATT’s government and announced that a military junta known as the ‘National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) announced that it taken power and promised to hold free elections after a new constitution had been written. The coup was met with widespread condemnation from Mali’s political actors, including leading presidential candidates IBK and Cissé as well as most parties, including ADEMA. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU suspended Mali’s membership, and adopted sanctions.

The junta’s goal was also to finish off the rebellion in the north. However, taking advantage of the political chaos, the MNLA – likely allied for the time being with Ansar Dine and possibly AQIM – took control of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu – the three major cities in northern Mali. On April 6, the MNLA proclaimed the independence of Azawad.

Infographic of the Malian conflict (source:

Facing international condemnation and the rapid advances of the MNLA – with many thinking that Azawad’s full independence was edging closer to becoming a reality, Sanogo and the junta was forced to back down and hand over power. On April 6, following negotiations, the junta agreed to relinquish power in exchange for ATT officially resigning the presidency and amnesty for the coupists. ATT resigned two days later and Dioncounda Traoré, the president of the National Assembly, became interim President. Nevertheless, the military retained de facto control over the civilian government. Soldiers from Touré’s presidential guard attempted a counter-coup, but they were quickly defeated by pro-junta forces. On May 21, supporters of the junta attacked Traoré in the presidential palace. He left the country for medical treatment and did not return until late July.

In May, the MNLA, Ansar Dine and AQIM announced an alliance, with AQIM saying it would gradually impose sharia law and create an Islamist state. However, only days after the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced that they would auto-dissolve into a transitional council, fighting broke out in early June between the MNLA and Ansar Dine in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. On June 27, the Islamists decisively defeated the MNLA in Gao, forcing the MNLA to evacuate the city and Timbuktu. In July, Islamists in Timbuktu destroyed mausoleums in Timbuktu which were on the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. In November 2012, the MNLA was defeated by Islamists in Ménaka.

In November, ECOWAS adopted a plan to expel the rebels from Mali and send over 3,000 troops. The UN Security Council, in Resolution 2085, approved the plan but required that political efforts be exhausted before the start of military operations – with the UN’s Secretary-General demanding that elections be held before any military intervention.

On January 10, the Malian army was defeated by the Islamists in the city of Konna and were moving towards Mopti, the last major city before Bamako. President Traoré called on French President François Hollande for immediate aid. France had key interests in ensuring that Islamists didn’t topple Mali’s fragile government, not only would it destabilize the government it would also threaten France’s uranium mining interests in neighboring Niger. Hollande responded favourably very quickly, and announced opération Serval. France’s military intervention took place alongside smaller military contingents from AU and ECOWAS members, with the largest non-French or Malian forces coming from Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Togo. Britain, the US, Canada, the EU and Russia provided logistical support, while Algeria allowed France to use bases in Algeria.

Within hours of Hollande’s decision, French helicopters engaged with a rebel column near Konna. On January 17, French and Malian troops retook Konna. On January 25-26, after air bombings, France and Mali retook Gao. On January 27-28, a French air and land assault successfully retook Timbuktu from AQIM. During that time, other African troops took smaller cities in northern Mali. The MNLA, which said it was open to working with France but not with Mali, claimed that it took a number of small towns which were controlled by rival Islamist movements. France moved to take Kidal, the last major northern town still controlled by Islamists. After heavy bombings in the Kidal region, France took the city on January 30-31. On February 2, Hollande visited Timbuktu, where he was welcomed as a hero, and received a camel as a token of appreciation (I only mention this because that video of Taylor Swift’s song remixed with Hollande’s camel is hilarious).

After the ‘reconquest’, French, Malian and African troops have been the target of suicide attacks or guerrilla attacks by Islamist movements (primarily AQIM splinter Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, MUJWA) – although not Ansar Dine and AQIM, which retreated to the north. Between February and March, they launched three hopeless de facto suicide raids on Gao. In February, France and Chad launched attacks against the Adrar Tigharghar, a montainous region in northeastern Mali where AQIM and factions of Ansar Dine had fled. By mid-March, French and Chadian troops had successfully taken control of AQIM’s main north Malian base, with France losing 3 men and Chad losing 27 soldiers. Low intensity warfare continued, notably in cities with suicide raids/attacks.

Negotiations between the MNLA and the Malian government, mediated by the President of Burkina Faso, took place in Ouagadougou beginning in May. The MNLA grudgingly accepted the organization of Malian elections in Kidal, which they controlled. Tensions between Mali and the MNLA aggravated in June, following the arrest of 180 persons by the MNLA in Kidal and alleged MNLA attacks against black populations in the city. On June 18, Mali and the MNLA (and another Tuareg organization) agreed to a cease-fire to allow for the presidential election. The campaign in Kidal was nonetheless disturbed by violent clashes between blacks and Tuaregs.

Candidates and the first round

The international community, particularly France, was very eager to organize the ‘indefinitely delayed’ elections as soon as possible. Hollande has little interest in French entanglement in a prolonged conflict in Mali, particularly because economic troubles at home and his own government’s deep unpopularity means that he has other concerns and initial public support for the French intervention has fallen. France, the US and other western countries want a democratically-elected president who can push forward talks with the MNLA, and restore political normalcy after over a year of political uncertainty in Bamako.

There has therefore been a lot of criticism that France pushed Mali into holding an election before it was really feasible. Nearly 500,000 Malians fled the country or are internally displaced, meaning that the rushed timetable meant for a rather chaotic electoral organization – with reviewing four-year old electoral lists, distributing biometric voter IDs and setting up polling stations.

Candidates needed to pay a deposit of 10 million CFA francs and receive signatures from ten parliamentarians or five local councillors from all regions and the Bamako district. The Constitutional Court rejected 8 out of 36 candidates.

The top candidates were:

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), former Prime Minister (1994-2000) and leader/founder of the Rally for Mali (RPM). IBK is 68 and has been active in Malian politics since democratization in the 1990s. He split from ADEMA when they passed him over for the 2002 presidential nomination, leading him to form his own party and run on his own, placing third before backing eventual winner, ATT. He backed ATT until ATT hooked up with ADEMA, and was the top opposition candidate against ATT in 2007. Before becoming a leading politician in his native country, the Paris-educated IBK spent 26 years in France, as a researcher and lecturer. Malian politics are unsurprisingly very much personality-based and driven, and ideology – especially what we think of as ideology and left-right politics – isn’t a big deal. IBK is officially socialist (the RPM is a member of the Socialist International), but he liberalized the Malian economy while Prime Minister and won a reputation as being tough on trade unions.

There was a lot of speculation that IBK was the junta’s preferred candidate, noting that he was the only major 2012 presidential candidate who wasn’t roughed up by the junta or forced to flee in exile. Many felt that he was the unofficial candidate of the junta and captain Sanogo. IBK was also endorsed by the High Islamic Council of Mali, a powerful circle of 20 or so Islamic organizations in the country, which over 90% Muslim. An article from France24 described him as ‘shapeshifter’. He kind of presented himself as a ‘strongman’ but also spoke of the need for reconciliation and a lasting peace settlement with the Tuareg.

Soumaïla Cissé, former cabinet minister and president of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (2004-2011); leader of the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD). Soumaïla Cissé is another veteran politician, having served as minister of finance until President Alpha Oumar Konaré in the 1990s before being backed by Alpha Oumar Konaré and his party, ADEMA, in the 2002 election. Cissé was hurt by divisions within ADEMA after IBK’s split from the party, and eventually lost the runoff ballot to ATT in a landslide. In 2003, Cissé  split from ADEMA to create the URD, which, like ADEMA, supported ATT in the 2007 election – against IBK. Cissé is IBK’s longtime political rival, but their feud is largely personal, not ideological. Their main ‘ideological’ disagreement is probably in their attitudes towards the March 2012 coup. While IBK was never on bad terms with Sanogo, Cissé was forced to flee his home after pro-junta troops attacked him. His party, the URD, joined ADEMA in a front du refus which opposed the coup.

Dramane Dembélé, former Director-General of Geology and Mines (2005-2011), candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali-African Party for Solidarity and Justice (ADEMA-PASJ). Dramane Dembélé, a 46-year old engineer, was the surprise candidate of ADEMA, Mali’s largest and best organized party. In the last local elections, in 2009, ADEMA won by far the most seats – about 3,100 to the URD’s 1,900 or so and the RPM’s 773. Although Dembélé is unknown and has no political experience, he benefited from the support of Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, ADEMA’s original candidate for the abortive 2012 elections. Dioncounda Traoré gave up his candidacy when he became interim president, as part of the peace agreement with the junta.

Modibo Sidibé, former Prime Minister (2007-2011). Sidibé served as ATT’s Prime Minister between 2007 and 2011, after having previously served in previous cabinets in the 1990s and as ATT’s secretary-general to the presidency between 2002 and 2007. A 2012 candidate, Sidibé was arrested by the junta in March 2012. He is considered an ATT loyalist.

Housseini Amion Guindo, former deputy for Sikasso circle (2005-2010). Guindo, a former member of the RPM, represented the Sikasso circle in southern Mali in the National Assembly between 2005 and 2010. He was also, apparently, owner of a football club and president of the Malian Football Federation between 2007 and 2009.

Oumar Mariko, doctor. Mariko already ran in 2002 (0.8%) and 2007 (2.7%) for a small clearly left-wing party, African Solidarity for Development and Independence (SADI). Mariko opposed both of Mali’s two democratically-elected presidents, most recently ATT. He decried the privatization by ATT’s government of Mali’s state-owned textile development company. His campaign this year called for the “equitable distribution of resources” and a strong democratic state. However, Mariko’s SADI was the only party which openly supported the March 2012 coup.

Choguel Kokalla Maiga was a close ally of former military dictator Moussa Traoré, and was the candidate for Moussa Traoré’s renamed former single-party.

Cheick Modibo Diarra, former NASA engineer of head of Microsoft Africa. Modibo Diarra was an astrophysicist before being appointed to be Mali’s Prime Minister in April 2012 after the junta handed over power. The junta apparently assumed he would be malleable, but they ended up arresting him in December 2012. Modibo Diarra is the son-in-law of former dictator Moussa Traoré, who apparently endorsed him over his own son, Cheick Boucadry Traoré, in 2012.

By all the attention he received in the US media, you would have assumed that Yeah Samaké, the mayor of Ouéléssébougou, was a frontrunner. Many people treated him as such in 2012. The main reason why he has received so much attention is that he is a Mormon who got his masters at Brigham Young University in Utah. He’s apparently the only Mormon in the country. I doubt that he was ever a frontrunner; it was just another case of the uninformed foreign media being totally inept at covering African elections even remotely seriously.

Despite fears that things would go wrong, the first round on July 28 was peaceful and successful, and widely judged as free and fair. In fact, no candidate denounced fraud, although Cissé criticized the rushed organization of the vote. Turnout was 48.98%, low by international standards but something of an all-time high for democratic Mali. Turnout was only 36.2% in 2007 and 38.3% in 2002. The high stakes of this election, especially compared to 2007, likely explains the high turnout.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta 39.79%
Soumaïla Cissé 19.7%
Dramane Dembelé 9.71%
Modibo Sidibé 4.97%
Housseini Amion Guindo 4.75%
Oumar Mariko 2.57%
Choguel Kokalla Maïga 2.36%
Cheick Modibo Diarra 2.14%
Jeamille Bittar 1.77%
Mountaga Tall 1.54%
Moussa Mara 1.53%
Mamadou Bakary Sangaré 1.08%
16 others under 1% – 8.09%

IBK won the second round on August 11 and Soumaïla Cissé conceded defeat, in person, the next day. I haven’t seen any figures for the second round yet, but I assume IBK likely won well over 60%.

IBK, therefore, easily won the race to become Mali’s third democratically-elected president – and also the man with the unenviable task of forging national reconciliation with the Tuareg minority, patching together a war-torn country’s economy and ensuring that Mali doesn’t fall prey to radical Islamism once more.

IBK’s success in the first round was likely due to his attractive image as a ‘strongman’ – though one who also promised ‘national reconciliation’ at the same time. I’m not sure to what extent the alleged backing of the junta and the open support of religious organizations helped him win votes.

In the second round, IBK received the endorsement of most defeated candidates. Dramane Dembelé personally endorsed him, saying that they were both members of the Socialist International, although ADEMA officially backed Cissé, their ally in the anti-junta coalition. Housseini Amion Guindo and, unsurprisingly, pro-coup candidate Oumar Mariko endorsed IBK. Modibo Sidibé endorsed Cissé. A number of other candidates, including Choguel Kokalla Maïga, also backed IBK. Slightly more surprisingly, two MNLA leaders – chief negotiator Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh and one official Mohamed Ousmane Ag Medoune – endorsed IBK. Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, who opposed Azawad’s declaration of independence, is something of a free-firing maverick within the MNLA, while the other guy said he was backing IBK because Cissé opposed autonomy for northern Mali (but so does IBK, as far as I know).

Results of the first round of the Malian presidential election by ‘cercles’ (source:

The map of the results showed a north-south split in the results. The north-south is one of the main divides in Mali since independence. The much more densely populated south, consisting of savannahs and forests, is home to the vast majority of the Malian population. Southern Malians are sedentary black Africans. The Mandé/Mandingue family – consisting of the Bambara,  Soninké and Malinké among others – make up 50% of the Malian population. The Bambara language has become Mali’s main lingua franca. Other black groups include the Voltaic Sénoufo, the Dogon, the Peul/Fula and the Songhai. The Sahel region, a semi-arid area, forms a transition zone between north and south. It lives around the Niger river valley and interior delta. Geographically, the north covers the two thirds of the country and includes the historic centre of Timbuktu, but it is only sparsely populated because it is an arid region covered by the Sahara. Many/most inhabitants of the region are nomadic/semi-nomadic Tuareg and Moors, known as ‘white/light-skinned’ Arab-Berbers. At this point, though, the Tuareg do not form a majority of the population in ‘Azawad’.

There is a long history of resentment between the blacks and the ‘whites’/Arab-Berbers. The Arab-Berbers owned black slaves until French colonial rule; since 1960, the Tuareg have resented that they lost their de facto independence/autonomy enjoyed under French colonialism and came under the control of a ‘foreign’ and ‘colonial’ power in Bamako controlled by blacks. The background to the current Tuareg conflict is therefore long and complicated.

Anyhow, in the first round, Cissé, who was born in either Timbuktu or Niafunké to Peul and Songhai parents, dominated in Timbuktu region with about 46% of the vote in that region. In the 2002 runoff election, Cissé won about 55% in Gao and Timbuktu region, and 72% in Kidal. ATT’s military background probably hurt him in the north, given the military’s long history of repression against the Tuareg – though ATT’s best results in 2007, in turn, came from the north, not the south…

Cissé won 68% in Niafunké and about 32% in Timbuktu, his support also extended into the Sahel (Mopti region), an area with a large Peul and Songhai population.

IBK did best in the south, winning 71% in Bamako and similarly well in the region surrounding the capital. Being a Bambara meant that he won most of central southern Mali, but he also won strong results in regions of the south which appear to be mostly Malinké, Soninké and, to a lesser extent, Sénoufo.

Guindo won Bandiagara, where he’s apparently from. He also won a neighboring ‘cercle’. Guindo is a Dogon and consequently performed well in Dogon country.

Kidal is not coloured in on this map, but on unofficial results, IBK won with 30.7% against 27.3% for Modibo Sidibé and 18.9% for Cissé.

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that turnout in Kidal was extremely low. Unlike in 2002 or 2007, turnout was lower in the north than in the south. The highest turnout was 57.9% in Bamako and 55% in Mopti, turnout was about 50-51% in every other region except Kayes (46.7%) in the southwest. While turnout was over 50% in both Timbukutu and Gao, turnout in those two regions was slightly lower than in 2007, in sharp contrast with the southern and Sahelian regions, where turnout rose sharply from 2007. In Kidal – heavily Tuareg, isolated and a MNLA holdout, where turnout was a strong 52.6% in 2007, it dropped to only 13.9% – and it was also quite low in other MNLA strongholds in Gao and Timbuktu (which explains, for example, why IBK won 72% in Menaka in Gao). The Tuareg population largely did not vote this year – which is not surprising, given that the MNLA’s official position has been to tolerate these elections but pay no attention to them.

Cissé conceded defeat to IBK even before any results were announced, and went to IBK’s house to do so in person. Cissé’s honourable concession is good news in that it ensures a peaceful transfer of power to IBK, and gives IBK full legitimacy. IBK is further boosted by French and European support, who have promised millions and millions in aid to Mali.

IBK’s first priority, in his own words, is national reconciliation. According to the preliminary deal signed in Ouagadougou with the MNLA, peace negotiations must open within 60 days of the new government taking power. IBK opposes autonomy for ‘Azawad’ and instead talks of another round of decentralization policies. IBK faces an extremely challenging situation all over, with an economy in ruins from the conflict, the lingering threat of an Islamist insurgency, the difficulty of achieving durable peace with the Tuareg (basically, can he achieve what everybody else before him failed to do?) and the question of controlling the still influential pro-coup elements of the army close to captain Sanogo. Can Mali reemerge as a democracy after the chaos of 2012-2013?

World Elections is taking a short holiday until September 3, to come back for a superb month of major elections in September. Enjoy the rest of August!

Posted on August 14, 2013, in Mali. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Long-time lurker here. Really appreciate the level of detail I’ve come to expect from this site! Can’t wait your coverage of the German election in September – enjoy your holidays.

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