More Links in News & Events

Postelection Statement on Mali Elections, June 7, 2002

CONTACT: Kay Torrence 404-420-5129

This is the Carter Center's second and final public statement on the 2002 presidential elections in Mali. The Center conveyed its preliminary observations of the first round of the presidential elections in an interim statement issued on May 7. This final statement summarizes the Center's overall impressions of Mali's presidential elections. A comprehensive report, including recommendations for electoral reform, is forthcoming.

As noted in the interim statement, the Center 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 elections. 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 therefore makes these observations in the spirit of supporting democratic development in Mali and throughout West Africa.

Overall, Mali's 2002 presidential elections were characterized by a peaceful, tolerant and competitive political climate. A wide range of viewpoints was expressed through Mali's broad range of print media and radio stations. The people of Mali, and their political institutions, met the challenge of ensuring that these elections were successful in these terms. Perhaps most importantly, the winning candidate, Amadou Toumani Touré (popularly known as ATT) appears to enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of the Malian electorate and the international community. Despite these observations, there were several contradictions of sufficient importance to raise doubts about such a positive assessment of the 2002 presidential elections.

1. Election process
Both rounds of the elections were characterized by widespread procedural irregularities.

Following completion of the first round of voting, provisional results placed ATT first, followed by Soumaïla Cissé and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (popularly known as IBK). As no candidate received a majority of votes, a second round of voting on May 12 was necessary. Ministry officials at national and regional levels indicated their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the first round and said that measures would be taken to improve the conduct of the poll. In Bamako for example, each commune held additional training sessions for all presiding officers and Ministry officials committed themselves to ensuring the timely distribution of election materials.

While the overall political climate remained tolerant and peaceful in the run-up to the second round, the Center observed or received reports of a range of continuing irregularities. For example, the Center received reports from several opposition parties in Ségou that accused Adema supporters of voter card theft and of photocopying several hundred proxy vote forms in advance of the elections. Concerns were also voiced about the circulation of proxy vote forms prior to the first round in Mopti, but it appears that more of an effort was made to restrict the circulation of proxy vote forms prior to election day.

Following the announcement of the first round provisional results, all of the political parties in the Hope 2002 coalition demonstrated their support for third place finisher, IBK. Although some of the coalition leaders and their supporters were clearly angry about the conduct of the first round, the rally was peaceful and IBK appealed for calm. IBK's acceptance of the Court's decision, despite the many complaints submitted by his party, also appears to have made a significant contribution to the conduct of a peaceful and tolerant second round.

In general, the conduct of the second round of the elections was marked by procedural improvements. Election officials were for the most part well trained in the discharge of their duties and committed to ensuring that the elections were conducted transparently. Moreover, the distribution of election materials was much improved for the second round as compared to the first and most polling stations opened on time, with all election materials present. Party delegates and the requisite number of assessors were present everywhere, although there were some delays in assigning party delegates to all polling stations in some centers.

However, it was not always clear that all party delegates fully understood their role or that they were able to adequately record the proceedings or results of their polling station. During the conduct of the poll, the polling station staff clearly found it easier to handle two ballot papers rather than the 24 ballot papers of the first round. This also made the voting process less confusing for voters.

Although the second round was conducted more efficiently than the first, the Center continued to observe problems on election day. For example, voter identification posed problems. In several places the Center observed voters who were able to cast their ballots without having to present any identification at all while other voters who had only their voter card were able to cast their ballot without two witnesses required by the electoral law.

There were also reports of serious electoral fraud involving vote buying, but these practices were not directly observed. A number of candidates and political parties lodged complaints of such attempts to influence the vote with the Constitutional Court following both rounds of the elections.

Security forces were generally visible, and they largely performed their tasks without interfering in the normal conduct of the poll. The Center did observe disruption, and possible intimidation, involving security forces at one polling center in Bamako. The army secured the two entrances to the polling center and was checking for voter cards and identification, thereby restricting potential voter access to the polls. Several disputes involving voter identification resulted from this action and throughout election day soldiers cleared the yard of people. While the security forces play an important role in all elections, this instance suggests that alternative means might have been employed to meet that goal while ensuring voter access to the polls.

Mali's electoral authorities currently include the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Local Authorities (MATCL), the Director General of Elections (DGE) and the National Independent Election Commission (CENI). MATCL is responsible for the administration of the elections, the DGE maintains the voters roll and issues voter cards while CENI supervises the overall conduct of the elections. Despite considerable procedural improvements during the second round, the many continuing widespread irregularities indicate that there is room for electoral reform and structural improvements for the conduct of elections in Mali.

2. Counting and tabulation
The tabulation process for Mali's election results was cumbersome, labor intensive and unevenly transparent.

The May 12 counting process proceeded much more smoothly and rapidly than in the first round, and polling station results were generally available the evening of election day. Results were normally posted at polling stations and copies of the results were available for each candidate's representative. In contrast to the ad hoc and irregular access to the national tabulation commission that Center observers received during the first round, unrestricted access was granted during the second and the Center was able to observe freely.

Each presiding officer completed three copies of the tally sheet of results. Tabulation committees comprised of candidate representatives, government and security officials were established at the local and national level to receive the first two copies of the tally sheets. Subsequently, regional level tabulation committees tabulated results from all of the local authorities in their respective areas and a national tabulation commission compiled results for the country as a whole. Once the national tabulation process was completed, the Minister of MATCL announced the provisional results.

The tabulation of votes at commune levels appeared to proceed more smoothly and rapidly following the second round. For example, by 10:30 pm on election night Commune III in Bamako had tabulated its results and a similar level of activity was observed in other parts of the city. By contrast, during the first round of the elections, results from Bamako were among the last to be received by the national tabulation commission.

However, some irregularities were observed during the tabulation process. For example, in Ségou the Mayor tabulated communal results without the presence of candidate representatives as required by the election law. In Mopti there was no tabulation at commune level, as the prefect issued a decree that called for the composition of a tabulation commission only at the electoral region level comprised of himself, his adjunct, and one representative from each candidate.

Overall, the tabulation process remained cumbersome because each of these committees operated independently of one another, and each conducted a complete tabulation. While the presence of candidate representatives on these committees demonstrated a commitment to transparency, it did not serve as an effective check on possible errors because the results from each level were not reconciled with those from the others. This process was time-consuming, and resulted in excessive duplication of effort. Finally, only regional and national results were released to the public, making assessments of local or polling station results impossible.

Meanwhile, the third copy of the tally sheet was sent to the Constitutional Court where a separate tabulation process was conducted. Despite all of the effort undertaken by the various tabulation committees, only the Constitutional Court's tabulation matters in the announcement of final results. The Court therefore functions as an election agency independently of the MATCL and other participants.

3. Constitutional Court
The role of the Constitutional Court deserves additional commentary because it does not simply tabulate results but also receives complaints from candidates, political parties and other interested groups. Its announcement of the official results is therefore based on its own separate tabulation of votes, as well its decision on the complaints and reports from its own observers. These deliberations were conducted in private and were not subject to appeal.

In both rounds of the elections, the number of votes invalidated by the Constitutional Court was very high, reaching 25% of total ballots cast in the first round and more than 15% in the second.

On Thursday May 9, the Constitutional Court announced the official results for the first round. Based on its own review of the results, as well more than 30 complaints, the Court invalidated a total of 541,019 votes, or 24.6% of total cast ballots. In addition, 4.3% of the cast ballots were declared void. Therefore, nearly 30% of ballots cast during the first round were not included in the final results. Although the Court's decision did not alter the order of the top three candidates, it did narrow Cissé's margin of victory over IBK from 44,927 to only 4,382.

The Court thus came close to changing the outcome of the election in a final count observed by no one. This change is partly attributable to the distribution of invalidated votes, presumably owing to the court's decision on complaints in areas where ATT and Cissé had more support. For example, in Kidal 68% of the votes were invalidated, followed by nearly 53% in Gao and 45% in Tombouctou. In the provisional results, Cissé was the leading candidate in all three of these regions and he therefore lost many votes in these regions.

Mali's electoral law does not provide a fixed timeframe during which the Court must announce its results and the timing of its decision left fewer than two full days for the top two candidates to campaign officially for the second round (in fact, both the ATT and Cissé campaigns were well underway immediately following the announcement of the provisional results the previous week). The timing of the decision also meant that itinerant voting stations were unable to reach all potential voters as their operation was reduced from one week to a few days.

The provisional results for the second round were announced on May 16, placing ATT first with 1,099,653 votes followed by Cissé with 609,320. Voter turnout reached 30.17%. Once again, responsibility for the declaration of the final results rested with the Constitutional Court. The Court received 47 complaints and announced the final results on May 23. The order of the candidates remained unchanged from the provisional results, with ATT elected President with 926,243 votes followed by Cissé with 498,503 votes. On the basis of the Court's decision on the complaints received, a total of 268,216 (15.5%) votes were invalidated, and an additional 30,248 (1.7%) were void. Although the total percentage of invalidated votes declined from the first round, the court's decision indicated continued irregularities of considerable scope and scale.

While the Center respects the role assigned to the Court by Mali's electoral law, the court's decision to invalidate 25% of the results from the first round, and more than 15% of votes cast in the second round, stands as evidence of the very real impact of the court's role in the tabulation process. The result was that a very high percentage of voters were effectively disenfranchised owing to widespread electoral irregularities and breaches of the electoral law. The court's decision to invalidate such a high number of votes also raises concerns about what level of fraud and administrative failure would have constituted a sufficient threshold for the court to invalidate the election in its entirety. In addition, while the Constitutional Court acts in accordance with the electoral law, as its deliberations are private, it is difficult for electoral authorities, political parties and voters to understand how best to improve electoral practices in Mali.

4. Observers and Transparency
The various domestic observers who served as important checks on the transparency of the electoral process operated imperfectly. For example, the Center was pleased to find party agents in all of the polling stations visited during both rounds of the elections. However, none of the political parties presented systematic reports from their agents on the electoral process or a record of results for either round of the balloting. This meant that they were unable to serve as an effective check on the national tabulation process.

The role of CENI is to supervise the conduct of the elections and therefore CENI also had observers in nearly every station we visited. CENI issued a public statement during the tabulation process of the first round results in which it reminded the national tabulation commission that the electoral law states that only official tally sheets may be used as the basis for results, rather than communications received by radio, fax or other means. Although they were preparing a report on the election results as a check on the official tabulation process, this report was never made public and apparently served only as a check of last resort. It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness or to justify the expense of this effort under these operating conditions.

As noted above, Constitutional Court observers were also present in most stations visited by the Center. Their reports were also internal for the Court's own assessment of the elections.

Finally, there were more than 500 domestic observers from the non-governmental Mali Election Support (APEM). Where possible the Center collaborated with APEM at the national level, but did not generally encounter their observers in the field on either election day.

5. Voter Participation
Voter participation remained low, with turnout reaching 38% of registered voters in the first round and barely 30% in the second despite the improvements in many aspects of the conduct of the poll between the two rounds. Continued low turnout is a disconcerting attribute of Mali's electoral politics and the phenomenon should receive more attention.

Mali is at a critical point in its democratic development. The 2002 elections mark the alternation of executive authority through the peaceful conduct of multiparty elections. Despite the many irregularities outlined in this statement, the people of Mali appear to have accepted these election results as a legitimate expression of their will. It is clear that the people of Mali voted for change and they expressed their support for a multitude of political parties and independent candidates.

However, Mali also faces a challenge now that it has elected a president without a clear identification with an established political party, especially as the country prepares for legislative elections later this year. The Center hopes that Mali's political institutions will operate effectively, while maintaining important checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Hopefully, a functioning coalition of parties or some other similar arrangements will enhance democratic governance and political stability during Amadou Toumani Toure's presidency.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top