Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mali begins to re-evaluate, fix its democratic model

Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré recently appointed a 15-person task force to investigate the state of the country’s democracy. The underlying motivation of the group will be to evaluate and strengthen the country’s democratic model, which means making changes.

According to a story by the Nation (of Nairobi), the task force will be addressing the issues of electoral fraud, low citizen participation, how to fund political parties, voter registration and education. It should be noted that Toumani Touré, known as ATT, ended the one party after toppling the government of Moussa Traoré in 1991. Elections were called in 1992, but ATT did not take part. Since then, the country has seen 3 other presidential and parliamentary elections, where two incumbents have handed over power to a successor. Toumani Touré retired from the military and returned to politics in 2002, running for president (and winning) as an independent. He won a second (and final) term in 2007.

Mali has long been considered one of the most politically stable, democratically progressive countries in West Africa. It currently enjoys a ranking of 20 out of 45 states in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, compiling such indicators as rule of law, citizen participation, human rights and sustainable economic opportunity.

From the Nation:

The decision comes at a time when Mali itself is not facing any trouble, nor heading to any immediate election which could have been a source of suspicion or tension.

Across Africa, the democratic achievements of the early and mid 90s - which have generalised the practice of multi-party politics and regular elections in several countries - are being seriously questioned by some and challenged by the facts.

In Mali, "the institutional practices of the past 15 years have shown a certain number of flaws and shortcomings which constitute matters of concern for the political class as well as for the civil society organisations", President Touré said when addressing the newly formed 15-member committee, headed by Mr [Former minister Daba] Diawara and comprising lawyers, university professors and civil society leaders.

The Malian ruler also noted that despite "the many amendments to the electoral Act and the Political parties Charter', the electoral process and financing the political parties" remain problematic in his country, as has been shown by the different polls organised since 1992, when the country entered the democratic era under the leadership of ATT.

… "We need to launch an in-depth debate on those issues", Mr Ousmane Issoufi Maïga who was the then Prime Minister said over the July 2007 parliamentary elections. He expressed the wish that "all sections" of the country needed to be consulted to see what was wrong with Mali's democracy. For the former prime minister, "it was important for the youth, the women, the political parties, the civil society organisations, opinion leaders, for everybody to meet to address these issues".

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