THE HORRORS OF A PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM: POOR AND UNSTABLE MALI GOES TO A PRESIDENTIAL RERUN AMIDST CHAOTIC LEGAL BATTLES

By Chris Zumani Zimba

MALI-FRANCE-DIPLOMACYIn the July 2018 first round vote, no presidential candidate reached the 50% threshold, thereby attracting a constitutional presidential rerun within two weeks. While Cise is supposed to contest in the second round vote against Keita the incumbent, 3 opposition leaders have petitioned the results as fraud, recognizing the fact that Cise himself signed an official political agreement with 17 more opposition presidential candidates to reject and denounce the results before they were announced. This is the latest political drama, legal battles and electoral development in West Africa’s Mali.

With the incumbent President, Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita only obtaining 41.4% while his nearest contender, former finance minister, Mr. Soumaila Cisse only winning 17.8% of the total national votes following the results announced by the Ministry of Territorial Administration on 2nd August, 2018, it means Mali is legally bound to conduct second round vote between the top two candidates within two weeks. As the first round vote was held on 29th July, 2018, the second round vote between Keita and Cisse will be held on 12th August, 2018. However, this rerun is not guaranteed as 3 opposition leaders have rejected and petitioned the first round results and Cice himself signed an earlier agreement of 18 opposition leaders who denounced the first round results before they were announced.

In the first round vote, the West African state which is the eighth-largest country in Africa with a population of 17.9 million had 24 presidential candidates. The voter turnout was estimated at 43.06% for 644 polling stations as more than 3% polling stations were shut down by Islamic armed attackers and another 20% of the polling stations were affected by violence according to the Ministry of Territorial Administration. Observers from the European Union, the African Union and the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who witnessed the first round vote had earlier called upon the government to publish a list of polling stations where it was not possible to hold the election because of violence.

According to the 2018 Index of Economy Freedom, landlocked Mali is one of the world’s 25 poorest countries and depends on gold mining and agricultural exports. Briefly after French colonial rule, Mali formed a federation with Senegal but consequently established the Republic of Mali was in 1960. In the recent past, the West African state has been politically unstable such that, following a military coup in 2012, Tuareg separatists and militants linked to al-Qaeda took control of northern Mali and declared independence. After military intervention by France, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won a five-year term as president in 2013. Although the government signed a peace accord with an alliance of Tuareg separatist groups in 2015, separatist clashes with pro-government militias did not stop and until today, French troops and UN peacekeepers remain in volatile Mali. This means that these 2018 presidential elections were being conducted in a hostile and unsafe environment for many citizens.

Mali just like many African states is suffering from the horrors of a presidential system i.e. a democratic model were all adult citizens participate to periodically choose or vote for one man or woman from the competing many as their president. Although dominant, the presidential system is too divisive, chaotic, fragile and presents multiple political challenges across the world as compared to a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system, citizens only vote for their representatives in the National Assembly while the party or coalition with majority seats in the legislature automatically forms government by using its party leadership. In a parliamentary system, the position of Head of Government or President either combined or separated are not differently elected by the people in anyway except that the Head of State is mainly established by constitutional designation while the Head of Government is established by parliamentary choice or vote from amongst the majority party leadership. UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Botswana, Israel, Mauritius, Seychelles or New Zealand are classical examples.

Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer and Consultant

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