|09BAMAKO27||2009-01-13 16:31:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Bamako|
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1.(SBU) Summary: Minister of Territorial Administration,
General Kafougouna Kone, confirmed to the diplomatic corps on
January 12 that Mali's municipal elections would occur on
April 26, 2009. Minister Kone said this date will hold
despite calls by political parties to delay the elections due
in large part to concerns over the quality of Mali's
electoral lists. Mali had hoped to complete a nationwide
census and national ID project in advance of the 2009 local
elections, but the census project has yet to get underway.
Minister Kone asked the diplomatic corps for assistance in
funding the elections, which are estimated to cost slightly
more than USD 15 million. We do not currently have plans to
provide anything beyond a USD 100,000 grant to NDI from USAID
for radio messages designed to increase the participation of
women voters. At the end of the meeting the German
Ambassador asked whether Minister Kone believed northern Mali
would enjoy the peace and security needed to conduct
legitimate elections. Kone acknowledge that this was an item
of concern but expressed optimism that peace would prevail
and Mali would be able to hold elections across the country
as planned. End Summary.
Despite Objections, Election Date Holds
2.(U) Minister of Territorial Administration, General
Kafougouna Kone, told the diplomatic corps on January 12 that
Mali would hold nationwide municipal elections on April 26,
2009. Malians will elect roughly 11,000 local officials
during the 2009 municipal elections. In addition to
selecting local mayors later in 2009, these 11,000 elected
individuals will wield a considerable influence over
preparations for Mali's 2012 presidential and legislative
elections. Local officials will also select members of
Mali's 75 member second and largely ceremonial house of
parliament, the High Council of Collectivities (HCC). The
next HCC election will occur in the spring of 2012 and will
serve as an important measure for the presidential and
legislative elections to follow a few months later.
3.(U) Malian officials had hoped to complete a nationwide
census and voter identification program, known under the
acronym RAVEC, prior to the 2009 legislative elections.
However, this census has yet to begin and even the most
optimistic timelines now project a late 2009 completion date.
The USD 30 million RAVEC program is funded primarily by
Canada and European donors and aims to provide each Malian
over the age of 15 with a digitized photo ID and, for those
of voting age, a voter card. RAVEC will also compile a
digital fingerprint database for all eligible voters in Mali
- approximately 7 million individuals. The French company
SAGEM is implementing RAVEC. SAGEM has the contract for a
nearly identical national identification program in
neighboring Cote d'Ivoire. RAVEC's slow start means that
Mali will have to limp into the 2009 local elections with the
same electoral lists that generated so much controversy
during the 2007 presidential and legislative elections.
4.(U) While the general time frame of late April has been
known for some weeks, the Ministry informed local political
parties of the April 26 date only two weeks ago, on December
29. Several political parties have already recommended
postponing the local elections until May or June or later due
to concerns over the electoral lists and the distribution of
roughly USD 2.4 million in public financing funds to over 60
political parties. Some opposition parties have also
objected to the number of National Independent Electoral
Commission (CENI) seats allotted to the opposition (three out
of ten spots for political parties) and the selection of a
senior member of the majority Alliance for Democracy in Mali
(ADEMA) party, former Agriculture Minister Seydou Traore, as
CENI president. The CENI established for the 2007
presidential and legislative elections was led by a
representative from the impartial magistrates union.
A Request for Aid
6.(SBU) Minister Kone told the diplomatic corps that the
elections would go forward as planned so that local elected
officials could be in place by the end of May 2009. Minister
Kone said Mali needed to respect this time line in order to
ensure that local mayors, who are chosen by those directly
elected during local elections, could be selected by June 2.
He then asked how the assembled diplomatic missions - which
included only the U.S., Germany, France, Belgium, and the
Netherlands - could help with financing the April elections.
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Only Germany responded, noting that Germany has a history of
providing logistical support for elections in Mali and that
this support would continue in 2009.
7.(SBU) "We have only three months to go," said Minister Kone
at the end of the meeting, "we need to move quickly." He
then said he was counting on Mali's technical and financial
partners for support, and that successful democratic
elections depended on assistance from international donors.
The Ministry of Territorial Administration's total budget for
the 2009 local elections is slightly more than USD 15
And in Kidal?
8.(SBU) The German Ambassador also asked Minister Kone
whether the security situation in northern Mali, and
specifically the regions of Kidal and Gao, would permit the
organization of elections. The German Ambassador said peace
and calm were prerequisites for successful elections.
Minister Kone acknowledged that this was "a real concern" for
the Malian government. "I hope," said Kone, "that there will
be calm by the end of April so that we can hold elections
Comment: Short is the Time
9.(SBU) We have passed a copy of the Ministry of Territorial
Administration's election budget to USAID, which has already
awarded a USD 100,000 grant to the National Democratic
Institute (NDI) for radio programs designed to increase the
participation of women in advance of the local elections.
This NDI program has also received support from Denmark.
Beyond this we do not envisage any additional support for the
2009 local elections which, as Minister Kone noted, are
already only three months away.