The first round of the presidential elections in Mali is planned for July 29. The purpose of this prospective paper is to analyze the competing political forces.
Forces at play:
There are no regularly conducted surveys that make it possible to detect a trend in voting intentions. Any analysis therefore calls for prudence. The presidential majority is a force that will have to be reckoned with in the upcoming vote. The parties supporting the candidacy of the incumbent President are gathered within the CMP.
This group is anchored by four political parties: Rally for Mali (Rassemblement pour le Mali, RPM), associated with the incumbent President; the Alliance for Solidarity in Mali (ASMA), associated with the Prime Minister; the Union for Democracy and Development (UDD), the party of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Convergence for the Development of Mali (CODEM), the party of the Minister of Education. Rounding out the coalition is a large number of small parties with negligible political heft. Over the years, the CMP has lost member parties. These include the following: ADP-Maliba; Yelema, the party of the former Prime Minister Moussa Mara; and CNID, the party of former Minister Mountaga Tall.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) will not have any problem with notoriety. As President, he will campaign using state means
If he runs, the incumbent President can rely on a certain number of parties that are well established in the country’s interior. Being in power confers a competitive advantage. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) will not have any problem with notoriety. As President, he will campaign using state means. The regime has been manoeuvering for a year to broaden its electoral base. The release of certain senior officers close to the former leader of the junta, the return of former President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) from Dakar, where he was living in exile, and the Prime Minister’s visit to Kidal are all part of these tactics. The overwhelming argument of candidate IBK is that he inherited a country that was in dire straits. Everything had to be rebuilt.
The regime has not succeeded in improving the daily life of Malians. Youth unemployment is especially bad. Dignitaries of the regime have been cited in a number of corruption scandals
President IBK will have a steep slope to climb. The great weakness of his candidacy is the gap between the expectations of the electorate in 2013 and the results in 2018. Malians saw in IBK the “law and order” candidate. He is remembered as being a decisive man when he was Prime Minister. Since he was elected, insecurity has grown throughout the territory. The appointment of five prime ministers in five years has given people the impression of a regime that lacks a strategy for the country.
The regime has not succeeded in improving the daily life of Malians. Youth unemployment is especially bad. Dignitaries of the regime have been cited in a number of corruption scandals. Housseini Guindo recently resigned from the position of Minister of Education. He has just announced that he is running for president. This candidacy and the departure of Guindo’s party (CODEM) from the presidential majority will likely reduce the chances of re-election of the incumbent President.
The opposition is fragmented and is taking a scattered approach to the election. This section will deal solely with candidates likely to be strong contenders. Soumaila Cissé is the opposition leader. His party, the URD, has the most elected members in the National Assembly after the RPM. The main strength of candidate Cissé remains his party. In fact, the URD is well established nationwide. This political group has an ability to mobilize that it has demonstrated in various elections.
Soumaila Cissé garnered sympathy because of his behaviour after the 2013 presidential election. He acknowledged his defeat in spite of flagrant irregularities. Finally, as the former head of the UEMOA, he has many contacts abroad. His knowledge of international organizations may be useful to a country in crisis. He also had a lengthy ministerial career before going to the UEMOA. Cissé has managed to build a broad coalition of political parties and civil society organizations in support of his candidacy. At this stage, he can realistically be considered as the front-runner.
The URD candidate will be hampered by the increasing number of candidates within the opposition. Some of these candidates will achieve very poor results, but as a group, they will take away votes from the best positioned candidates. The URD has always done well in the Centre regions. Mr. Cissé is himself the deputy for Niafunké. The current security context will impact the participation rate in this part of the country. Finally, Cissé is associated with the generation said to be that of the “democrats”. Young people wrongly or rightly believe that this generation is in part responsible for the current state of the country.
Cissé has managed to build a broad coalition of political parties and civil society organizations in support of his candidacy. At this stage, he can realistically be considered as the front-runner
Former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé is a candidate firmly rooted in the left. He has formed a centre-left-NPP coalition around his party, the Alternative Forces for Renewal and Emergence (FARE). The strength of Sidibé’s candidacy is his personal credibility. He is known for having integrity and being very competent. He is the only major candidate who rejected the Peace Agreement signed in 2015.
He is more in tune with a good portion of the electorate who find that the Agreement has not yielded the expected results. Finally, as Minister of Health, he established the foundation of the Malian health system, still in place today. The FARE candidate has done outreach work in recent years. He has made the rounds of the neighbourhoods of Bamako to speak with young people about their concerns.
Just as for Soumaila Cissé, the number of votes won by Modibo Sidibé will be affected by the growing number of opposition candidates. His party, the FARE, is a relative newcomer on the political scene. Beyond the candidate, it is necessary to see whether this party will actually be able to mobilize voters on Election Day. Finally, this candidate is perceived as being a technocrat and not a politician. Modibo Sidibé was a close collaborator of former President ATT. He has not managed to attract the parties claiming to follow in the footsteps of the former president.
The rising wave
The millennial tradition of gerontocracy is being vigorously challenged. Three young candidates seem to be emerging: former Prime Minister Moussa Mara, former Minister of Finance Mamadou Igor Diarra, and former Minister of Territorial Administration Moussa Sinko Coulibaly. These three candidates are putting forward the same argument: the political class needs “renewal” and “rejuvenation.” The generation that took charge of the country in 1991 has failed.
Moussa Mara is the candidate with the most notoriety. If a young person were to come to the forefront, it would probably be him. His political party, Yelema, is establishing a foothold both within the country and abroad. He has already run for elected office several times. Mara left a good impression as the young mayor of Commune IV in Bamako. He will be able to count on the support of certain religious leaders. Finally, of all the declared and potential candidates, he is the one with the best mastery of social media.
Moussa Mara is the candidate with the most notoriety. If a young person were to come to the forefront, it would probably be him. His political party, Yelema, is establishing a foothold both within the country and abroad
Moussa Mara also has his weaknesses as a candidate. He is very popular in Bamako and in the large cities. However, it remains to be seen how the electorate in the rural areas will react to his candidacy. He is criticized for his visit to Kidal and the debacle of the Malian army in May 2014. As Prime Minister, he defended certain dubious decisions of the outgoing regime. Whatever the outcome will be at the polls, this is a politician who will be a major player in Malian politics in the years to come.
The other two young candidates do not have an electoral machine. They are undoubtedly positioning themselves for the 2023 presidential election or for ministerial positions in a government where competence will be the selection criterion. If the security situation continues to deteriorate, Moussa Sinko Coulibaly could become a frontrunner in the election. Operation Barkhane is very costly for France, which does not want to become mired in the Sahel. The French authorities would not be displeased to see a graduate of the Military Academy of Saint-Cyr elected as President of Mali.
Outside of the inner circle of politics, a number of public figures are preparing to become candidates. They face the same challenges: they lack name recognition and, above all, do not have an electoral machine.
The conditions favour these newcomers. There seems to be a real desire for change. Some of these outsiders have quite impressive career paths apart from politics. This is the case for Hamadoun Touré, who had a career in the United Nations system. We should also mention Kalfa Sanogo, who has an electoral base in Sikasso, a city that he manages very rigorously. Former Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra is also part of the group. Before returning to Mali, he had worked at NASA and at Microsoft. In the group, businessman Aliou Aboubacar Diallo remains an enigma. He declared his candidacy in Nioro. He has no political experience and may rely on the ADP-Maliba, a party that is on the rise.
The dark horse:
A last-minute candidacy could disrupt things. The one mentioned most frequently is the candidacy of former Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly. A “draft Tatam” movement initiated by civil society did not take off. His duties at the Central Bank of the West African States (BCEAO) require him to demonstrate a certain reserve. If he enters the political arena, he will have many assets. He is the son of a respected and admired opponent of the military regime in Mali. His father paid a heavy price for his opposition to the dictatorship. As Prime Minister, Oumar Tatam Ly left the impression of a man with integrity, competence and rigour. It remains to be seen whether he will have a tough enough hide to resist the brutal attacks on the Malian political class. Will he have sufficient time to form a campaign team and platform in less than three months?
As Prime Minister, Oumar Tatam Ly left the impression of a man with integrity, competence and rigour
The next election will be an open race. Soumaila Cissé is the front-runner at this early stage. Another major candidate could still pull off a victory on Election Day, or a dark horse candidate might surprise everyone and emerge as the winner. At the time of finishing this article, a new coalition was being formed: the “Convention des bâtisseurs” (“builders’ alliance”). In addition to the two former prime ministers, Modibo Sidibé (NPP/FARE) and Moussa Mara (Yelema), it includes Housseini Amion Guido (Codem), Mr. Mountaga Tall (CNID), General Moussa Sinko Couibaly, Dr. Hammmadoun Touré and other lesser candidates. If these political heavyweights can gather around a single candidate―most probably, former prime minister Modibo Sidibé―the electoral landscape will be transformed.
Former Prime Minister Moussa Mara just announced on June 15 that he is withdrawing his candidacy and will support Cheick Modibo Diarra, who was formerly Prime Minister during the transition. Before rallying behind Chick Modibo Diarra, Mara flirted with the “Convention des bâtisseurs”. He was one of the first politicians on the starting block as a candidate. While this move has improved the odds of Diarra winning, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to carry him to the second round. The Malian opposition remains divided, which is good news for the incumbent President.
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