EU observers and U.N. mission praise Mali legislative vote


European Union observers and the United Nation’s mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on Monday praised the West African nation’s weekend legislative election, despite low turnout and some voting abuses.

Sunday’s vote was largely peaceful except for a few incidents in the north that were unlikely to affect the outcome, EU election observation chief Louis Michel said in a statement.

Malian officials reported that armed men carried off ballot boxes in Goundam, in the region of Timbuktu, preventing people from casting their votes. Tuareg separatists also held protests in their northern stronghold of Kidal.

Bert Koenders, MINUSMA’s head, said the election campaign and voting took place in accordance with Malian law and met the mission’s expectations. He condemned the incidents that marred voting in some places, particularly Goundam, but said they did not invalidate the election.
“These elections will allow the establishment of a new National Assembly, an essential process for the return of constitutional order,” Koenders said.

The election of a new parliament is supposed to complete the democratic transition in the wake of last year’s military coup and a nine-month occupation of northern Mali by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda.

The end of the transition will unlock about $3.25 billion donors have pledged to rebuild the impoverished country and develop its lawless northern desert.