Mali : local elections in December for a new start?

The December 17 elections are expected to signal a new beginning in the regions, where collectivities are led by councilors who have been in place since 2009 and in which the people seem to no longer recognize themselves. We must put an end to their «blank mandate».

In Mali, the local, regional and communal partial polls are scheduled for December 17, according to the decrees convening the electoral college adopted on October 5 at the Council of Ministers. Before midnight on November 1, political parties and party groups must submit their lists of candidates.

These three types of polls come as the government has decided to extend the state of emergency, from Tuesday, October 31, to strengthen the powers of the security forces. Established in November 2015, following the attack on the Radisson Hotel, the state of emergency has been extended several times. This serves as a barometer to the current state of insecurity in which Mali is, particularly because of terrorist attacks.

In November 2016, due to insecurity, communal elections could not be held in some communes of the Center and the North. In all, there are 59 communes, where partial communal elections will be held on December 17 to replace councilors whose mandates expired in 2014.

But it is the election of circle counselors and regional councilors which is mobilizing attention and energies. Because they are «the most important for the people», says Aboubacar Maiga, presidential candidate for the Regional Council of Timbuktu in a coalition of political parties. In the regions, the collectivities are managed by councilors in place since 2009. «This raises the problem of their legitimacy, of their representativeness. Many things have changed in security, economic and political plan. There should a renewal to integrate these dimensions», he says. For this journalist based in Gao, the city of Askia and who requested anonymity, «today, the people are no longer represented. As a result, there is a trust crisis between collectivities and traditional development partners».

These local elections can not be held in the Ménaka and Taoudeni regions, which have just been made operational. At the Ministry of Territorial Administration, it is explained that they come «as part of a deepening of decentralization as provided for in the Agreement. They will be crucial to empower collectivities with legitimate elected representatives. The mandate of those who are still here has expired. We must not let their blank mandate extend». «Those who are now in place do not have the legitimacy or the legality. People do not recognize themselves in them», adds Aziza Mint Mohamed, Member of Parliament elected in Timbuktu.

In the north, since April, the interim authorities have been installed in the five regions to restore the State and prepare the elections. The election of the Presidents of the Regional Assembly will have to spell the end of their mission. For the former rebels of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), most of them are slow to be operational. «The organization of elections under these conditions is a way to defenestrate», says Ilad Ag Mahmoud, spokesman for the CMA, joined by An opinion not shared by Mr. Salaha, blogger in Timbuktu, who indicates that since its installation, the president of the interim authority of Timbuktu «is fighting on several fronts, including that of reconciliation, by increasing meetings with the people».

«The context is very volatile and everything is possible. In these circumstances, it is difficult to consider elections in the North, this is undeniable», warns this resident of Timbuktu, who points to the insecurity in the villages, the camps to the point that «development partners like the French Development Agency, Swiss cooperation have stopped their activities».

It remains that the problems related to these elections are not only of a security nature, if one believes the Coordination of Azawad movements (CMA, former separatist rebels), which split a statement on October 28, to request the postponement. «In implementing some of the political and institutional provisions of the Agreement, the government is evolving unilaterally», says Ilad Ag Mahmoud, spokesman for the CMA. A «unilateral attitude» denounced also, for its part, the political opposition on October 23, which said it had expressed prerequisites for all discussions on the elections.

Ilad Ag Mahmoud explains that no action is being taken for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. They were 143,103 refugees and 498,170 were internally displaced at the end of June 2017, according to figures of the High Council of Refugees (UNHCR). Another bone of contention: the new territorial collectivities code, whose promulgation by President Keïta on October 2, was denounced by the CMA and the Platform of Movements of June 14, 2014, which yell at «a blatant violation of the Agreement». For the CMA, «The Agreement in its Article 6 gives the regions full power to self-administer, making the President of the Regional Assembly the head of the regional executive and the administration. Therefore, the governor plays a posteriori role of legality. This provision, believes Moussa Mara, former Prime Minister and party chairman of Yelema (also candidate for mayor of the district of Bamako), «is defeated» by the new law on the collectivities code.

This Thursday, October 2, the Prime Minister, Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga will meet with armed groups in Bamako to discuss the elections. In the field, the Ministry of Administration is working to prepare these elections. A special enlistment operation for the new adults is launched. «Local elected officials are needed to demonstrate that the reforms will result in a better life for people. To do so, elections are desirable to give collectivities legitimate elected representatives who are part of the new dynamic, which is the deepening of decentralization. This is the meaning of the Peace Agreement», concludes Moussa Mara.

Sidi Ahmed S.