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Mali president’s party wins elections

Vote completes democratic transition, should unlock donor funds

Gulf News

Bamako: The party of Mali’s new president, together with its political allies, won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections, according to provisional results released by the government late on Tuesday.

The vote was intended to complete the West African country’s transition back to democracy after soldiers staged a coup in the southern capital Bamako last year, creating a void that allowed Islamists to seize the country’s north.

France launched an intervention in January to drive the Al Qaida-linked fighters from northern towns, clearing the way for a presidential election won by Ebrahim Boubacar Keita.

Completion of the parliamentary vote — the final step to restoring civilian rule — should unlock $3.25 billion (Dh12 billion) pledged by donors to rebuild the impoverished country and develop the lawless desert north.

Results by constituency were announced on state television by Minister of Territorial Administration Moussa Sinko Coulibaly but will still need to be ratified by Mali’s constitutional court.

Keita’s RPM party finished first after the second of the elections’ two legs, securing 61 of a total of 147 seats in parliament, according to Mahamadou Camara, Keita’s chief of staff.

Adema, the RPM’s principal ally, finished second with 20 seats, according to Abdoulaye Maiga, a member of the party’s leadership, while smaller parties backing Keita also won seats.

The URD — the party of Soumaila Cisse, who lost the presidential runoff to Keita and is now positioning himself as the leading opposition figure — claimed 18 of a total of 24 seats for opposition parties.

While the Nov. 15 second round of voting saw none of the abuses, including ballot box theft, that marred the earlier first round, turnout was low.

Coulibaly said just 37.24 per cent of registered voters participated in the polls, down from 38.5 per cent in the first round. A record 49 per cent of Mali’s 6.8 million registered voters cast ballots in the first round of the presidential election in July.

While France’s massive military operation earlier this year pushed the Islamists out of major population centres, isolated cells have remained active and Mali has suffered a surge in Islamist violence since Keita was elected in an August runoff.

France has some 2,800 troops stationed in Mali but aims to reduce its military presence to 1,000 by February as it hands security responsibilities to the Malian army and the UN force.

The UN mission, launched in July, is still at roughly half its 12,600-man planned strength.