Keita’s party triumphs in Mali election

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AFP

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita casts his ballot at a polling station in Bamako during the second round of parliamentary elections on December 15, 2013. Picture: Habibou Kouyate

Bamako - The party of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and its allies have won the West African nation's parliamentary elections, according to provisional results announced by the government on Tuesday.

The Rally for Mali (RPM) and its junior partners have 115 of the 147 seats in the National Assembly following a second round of voting on Sunday, Minister of Territorial Administration Moussa Sinko Coulibaly said on state television, with the exact breakdown still to be worked out.

The Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD), the party of beaten presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse, will have between 17 and 19 members in the new parliament, allowing him to realise his ambition to be leader of the opposition.

Turnout in the second round reached 37.2 percent, a drop on the 38.6 percent achieved in the first round, which itself was deemed disappointing.

The election marked the completion of Mali's return to democracy after it was upended by a coup last year and then had its northern half occupied by Islamists linked to al-Qaeda before being liberated by a French-led military intervention launched in January.

There were no serious incidents during 10 hours of voting but many voters were believed to have stayed away because of a recent upsurge in rebel attacks against African troops tasked with election security alongside French and Malian soldiers.

Two Senegalese UN peacekeepers were killed and seven wounded on Saturday when a suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden car into a bank they were guarding in the northeastern rebel bastion of Kidal.

The second round of the parliamentary election was Mali's fourth nationwide ballot in less than five months and some observers also blamed voting fatigue for the low turnout.

Louis Michel, the European Union's chief election observer in Mali, said on Monday his team had positively evaluated 98 percent of the 705 polling stations observed during the election.

He said the “legal framework” for the polls “remains aligned with international standards for democratic elections”.

Michel also headed the EU's observation mission for the first round on November 24 and for the presidential polls which brought Keita to power in July and August.

“Nobody would have thought we could organise the return to constitutional order and the rule of law this fast,” Michel said, adding that Mali had “now found democratic conditions to allow it to reboot to assume full development, education and reconciliation”.

Previous elections have been marred by accusations of widespread fraud and the result becomes official only if it is confirmed by the constitutional court in the coming days.

The RPM appeared however to have made good on a promise to deliver “a comfortable majority” to smooth the path for reforms he plans to put in place to rebuild Mali's stagnant economy and ease the simmering ethnic tensions in the north.

Analysts speculated that the RPM would have to form a coalition with the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, one of the country's most established parties, which was split during the presidential polls between Keita and his rival, Soumaila Cisse.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, called on “all candidates and parties involved to accept the verdict of the ballot box” in a statement released in Brussels on Monday. - AFP


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