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Postelection Statement on Mali Elections, May 7, 2002


The Carter Center welcomes the completion of the first round of Mali's 2002 presidential elections. These elections mark an important step in Mali's democratic transition following the completion of President Alpha Oumar Konare's two terms in office. Overall, the elections were peaceful, well managed and conducted in a spirit of transparency. The high number of presidential candidates (24) indicates significant enthusiasm for multiparty electoral competition but also the highly personalized character of politics in Mali. The general atmosphere during the electoral campaign was positive and there were no reports of intimidation before or on election day. However, the conduct of some elements of the electoral process has generated concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the reported results.

The Center has sent a small delegation of staff and observers and therefore did not attempt to observe on a countrywide basis or to prepare its own comprehensive statement on the first round election. In addition to its own observations, the Center has consulted widely with other observers, political party representatives and voters in order to take note of their concerns with the electoral process.

The Center observed a significant number of logistic and administrative irregularities on election day. For example, several polling stations lacked voter cards for distribution on election day, and in one instance voter cards for two polling centers were locked in a trunk until midday and therefore unavailable for collection. In other polling stations, essential election materials such as voter lists, ballot papers, voting booths and indelible ink were missing, thereby delaying the opening of the polls or affecting the operation of the polling station. The Center also observed the circulation of proxy vote forms on election day that had been signed by the appropriate officials but with the voter's name left blank, in contravention of the electoral law. Despite these irregularities, the Center found that many presiding officers and political party and candidate representatives were committed to ensuring fair and unimpeded voter access on election day.

The Center appreciated the large number of party delegates and party assessors who facilitated the electoral process. Domestic observers from the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) were also found in most polling stations.

The initial counting process presented many challenges to election officials owing to the high number of candidates in the elections. However, the assignment of no more than 700 voters per polling station enabled officials to complete the count in a reasonable amount of time. The lack of adequate lighting in many polling stations as well as complicated reporting forms made the work more difficult. Furthermore, the Center did not find posted results at the polling stations, despite the provision of the electoral law to do so.

The subsequent tabulation process was far more worrisome than the initial count in the polling stations and deserves more critical assessment. Vote tabulation was conducted at multiple levels through a cumbersome manual approach that required several days and nights. The slow release of provisional results raised suspicions among political parties.

In addition, while the Center was able to observe this process at the local and regional level, access to the national tabulation process was not always possible, despite assurances that international observers would have access to all aspects of the electoral process, including vote tabulation. The Center was denied access to the national tabulation commission (comprised of government officials and party representatives) until almost 48 hours following the close of the polls. Subsequent access to the commission was arbitrary and ad hoc and the Center was unable to effectively observe the communication and computer facilities. As a result, the national tabulation process could only be partially observed.

The fact that some political parties represented on the tabulation commission and CENI have expressed severe criticism about legality of the tabulation process heightens concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the reported results. These questions should be resolved without delay in order not to impede the upcoming second round.

The Carter Center awaits the conduct of the second round of the presidential elections and encourages all participants to work towards a peaceful, credible and transparent democratic electoral process.

The Carter Center is an international not for profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Center has observed more than 30 elections in 20 countries as an independent and impartial organization.

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