Protests broke out in the Malian capital Bamako and elsewhere in the country after the final vote count for legislative elections held in March and April was announced, giving the ruling party ten more seats than the interim results did. The Rally for Mali (RPM), the party of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, now holds 53 out of 147 seats in the National Assembly. Following the announcement, hundreds gathered in the streets to express their frustrations, accusing the RPM of “stealing” votes.
The low voter turnout calls into question the credibility of the RPM’s mandate to rule.
It was expected that Malians would be upset by any final declaration of which parties won and lost seats given the low voter turnout—only 36 percent nationally and 7.5 percent in Bamako during the second round of voting—which calls into question the credibility of the RPM’s mandate to rule. Before the first ballots were cast, Keïta was pressured to postpone the elections yet again. They were originally supposed to be held in 2018, but were held off due to the turbulent security situation in the country’s north and east.
Security concerns have not abated since 2018.
The president explained that the vote needed to happen based on the outcome of the National Inclusive Dialogue, held between December 14 and December 22, 2019, and to uphold the peace accord signed in 2015, an agreement between the Malian government and two coalitions of rebel groups that gives partial autonomy to the north of the country. Opposition groups disputed this reasoning, noting that security concerns have not abated since 2018 and that holding elections would put voters at risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the reasons for the low voter turnout; another was the shocking abduction of opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé just days before the vote. He is still missing.