Keita’s landslide re-election: The 2018 Mali Elections
In what has been a controversial and heavily questioned election, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (RPM Party) has been re-elected by a landslide victory for a period of five years according to reports and statistics released by election authorities. The election has been followed keenly overseas as well, considering the fact that Mali has been a linchpin state with regard to the jihadist insurgency in the Sahel.
Keita at 73 years of age, scored a landslide 67.17% of the total votes polled on Sunday while the opposition party led by former finance minister Soumaila Cisse secured about 32.83% of the vote. Cisse is also known for having run for the elections against Keita himself in the 2013 elections. However, it is to be noted that the voter turnout was low with only 34.5% of the voters casting their vote.
Cisse’s party, however, dismissed the results of the elections with severe disapproval and declared that they would challenge the results using “all democratic means”.
Mali is a multi-cultural landlocked West African nation which is home to over 20 different ethnic groups, where a large part of the population continues to live on less than $2 a day. The country has also faced severe security issues from a years-long Islamic insurgency that has caused a significant degree of inter-communal violence. In fact, this year alone, hundreds have lost their lives due to violence regarding the Fulani nomadic herder community.
Keita’s response to the expanding crisis was, however, the big campaign issue, with various members of Cisse’s party and other opposition members slamming him and accusing Keita of incompetence and apparent indifference to the situation in the country. Yet, the condemnations and assaults on Keita did not rid him of his core support lobby, but rather delineated the opposition as fractured and non-cohesive, leaving Keita as the only probable candidate for the role.
The voting procedure in itself did not undergo the due procedure without complications. Violence spurred by jihadist attacks resulted in the closure of selected polling booths. There were also allegations afloat regarding the irregularities in the polling procedure such as stuffing of ballot boxes. The allegations even provoked a lawsuit petitioned by three leading members of the opposition, but the petition was consequently dismissed by the Constitutional Court.
If all goes as planned, Keita will take office on September 4. His appointment comes with a baggage of high expectations, especially regarding the trilateral peace accord between the government, former Tuareg rebels and the government-allied groups. The effectiveness of the deal, however, was brought into serious question when a state of emergency had to be declared that heads into its fourth year this November, in spite of the deal being in force.
France even assisted Mali to help control the jihadist threat by sending over troops in Northern Mali, and 4500 continue to remain in the country. There also exist in the country, 15,000 deployed UN peace-keepers and a regional Sahel force for the purpose of containing and eliminating the Jihadist threat and restore law and order in the northern regions of the nation. Other challenges such as chronic poverty and stagnant economic development continue to plague the nation, with close to half of the total 18 million in population, living below the poverty line.
Hence, expectations are high on Keita as the burden and fate of the poverty-stricken and Jihadist ridden West African nation now rests once again in his realms of responsibility. The opposition to stand a fair chance in future elections, however, must clearly demonstrate unity and be firm representatives of their agenda. This will prevent incidents where results are disapproved of in the last minute or lawsuits are filed for election irregularities, and instead portray the opposition as worthy, competent and a serious competitor to Keita’s administration.
*Rayan Bhattacharya is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti