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How Malian Citizens Help Monitor the 2013 Presidential Elections

On March 22nd 2012, a military coup led by the recently promoted Army General, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, took place against the democratically-elected General Amadou Toumani Touré… plunging Mali into a deep socio-political and military crisis.

During the coup, large towns in northern Mali were occupied by jihadis, and a rebel group – the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) – fighting for the independence of the region. The rebels were quickly joined by additional fundamentalist groups. This pushed several thousand inhabitants to seek refuge in Mali's southern towns still untouched by the coup, and in neighboring countries (Burkina-Faso, Mauritania, Senegal and Niger).

After the coup, a provisional government led by Dioncounda Traoré was put into place. In spite of the challenge of getting refugees and displaced Malians to the polls, elections were organised.

The first and second electoral rounds took place on the 28th of July and the 11th of August, 2013, and were considered to be legitimate and peaceful. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita was elected with 77.61% of the vote; his main competitor in the 2nd round, Mr. Soumalia Cissé, conceded defeat before the official results were even announced.

un homme vote pour le second tour des élections présidentielles maliennes à Tombouctou via UNHCR avec leur permission

A man votes during the second round of the Malian Presidential elections at Timbuktu. Image used with permission from UNHCR

Several factors helped to level the playing field during the elections. The jihadi threats, the scattered population, and the difficulties of transportation decreased the chances that the elections would be vulnerable to any predetermined outcome. There was also a military occupation in the town of Kidal by the MNLA, which refused to recognize the authority of the Mali central government. In addition, important political, diplomatic and military efforts were made by the provisional government, civil society organizations and the international community. These factors allowed major obstacles to be overcome, paving the way for the elections.

Supported by a French-speaking Global Voices team, an online network to follow the elections was put into place. The project endeavored to establish volunteer media spokespeople and internet users from Bamako and other regions of Mali. These volunteers leveraged social media to share information throughout the electoral process from their home locations. Using smartphones, they updated the Facebook page [fr] “Info Elections 2013 au Mali” and twitter account @malivote, both created especially for the event two weeks prior to the elections. This allowed for people to easily follow the elections online.

The project also organised a demonstration of the role and potential benefits of the Internet in the electoral process. This was presented to the heads of certain sectors of public and private infrastructure, such as those ministries in charge of organizing the elections, including: the CENI (the Malian independent electoral commission), the Ministry of Information and New Technologies and Communication, and the Ministry of Communication. It was also shared with mobile phone businesses such as Orange Mali and Malitel, as well as the heads of MINUZMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali). The project additionally presented demonstrations of Afripedia, a tool that allows searches on wikipdeia without the need for an internet connection.

Boukary Konate dans la chambre technique du pole d'observation citoyenne électorale via facebook

Boukary Konate in the technology room in the polling station viewing room. Via Facebook.

Information was centralized on the special Facebook page [fr], which amassed over 1,100 fans in just a few days before the elections.

Participating in information sessions: “Media and the elections in Mali” 

A few weeks before the launch of the project, the organisers participated in two information sessions on media and elections in Mali, the first of which was organised by organized by the International Foundation for Electronic Systems (IFES) and its partners (16th of July 2013). Additional sessions were organized by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and the Ministry of Decentralization and Territorial Planning, in collaboration with the Malian Press and Advertising Agency (AMAP) (July 14th to 19th, 2013).

The goal of these training sessions was to give increased information on the electoral process to the media, so that they could better inform the public about the structure of the Malian electoral system. Subjects addressed included: Malian electoral law, Malian political parties, types of journalistic coverage (reports, descriptions, interviews…), journalistic code of ethics, limitations and constraints that journalists face. In addition, principles that govern the journalistic profession were discussed, such as respect for private life and humility, among others.

Over the course of these information sessions, many participants asked questions about the nature of social networks, blogs and bloggers. It became evident that Mali must continue to meet the challenge of educating people about the new virtual world, since many Malians are still unfamiliar with these technologies, despite the fact that most of the country's candidates do have Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Citizen's Electoral Observation Deck : Monitoring social networks 

The NGO network “Appui au Processus Electoral au Mali/Réseau APEM” (Support to Mali's Electoral Process), in collaboration with the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and the National Council of Civil Society (Conseil National de la Société Civile) put together a program entitled “Pole d’Observation Citoyenne Electorale” (POCEs), or Citizen's Electoral Observation Deck (CEOD). This exists under it's program “Appui au processus Démocratique par l’observation citoyenne de la pré-électorale et des élections Présidentielles et législatives de  2013 (1er et 2ème Tours) au Mali” (Citizens support the democratic process by monitoring the Malian electoral race, and both rounds of the 2013 legislative and presidential elections).

During the first and second rounds of the elections, the CEODs noted a tremendous amount of public scrutiny across many systems. The APEM Network deployed 2,100 national observers across the nation (some of whom were assigned to fixed locations and others who were mobile). Additionally, there were 78 supervisors charged with the task of demonstrating the platform Malivote during its launch on July 28th 2013 in 1,583 polling stations. One of the areas that the project was responsible for was the monitoring of social networks, producing daily reports during the course of the two rounds of elections.

Address from President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA (also known as IBK)

The inauguration of the new President of Mali Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA (IBK) is set for the 4th of September 2013. As a follow-up to the Facebook group effort, a livetweet of this event is being organized, so that it may be observed from a distance.

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