AFRICA ELECTIONS: LOW VOTER TURNOUT IN MALI; VOTE BUYING IN SOMALIA; GAMBIA DENIES EU OBSERVERS

Low voter turnout marked Sunday Nov 20 municipal polls in Mali while vote buying, fraud and violence marks campaigning ahead of Somalia’s Nov 30 presidential elections.

The municipal elections were the first elections since 2013 in MALI, in which voters were electing 12,000 councillors across the west African country ,as the government grapples with implementing a floundering peace deal and warding off a jihadist threat in the north.

“We began at 8am. Up to now we have not had any incidents. Few people came. It is slow, it is a little quiet, “said Ali Kone an election official.

The elections were boycotted by a number of opposition parties and some armed groups involved in the UN- led peace process, highlight deep divisions that still plague Mali, three years after civil war.

The polls which were held two years later than scheduled, coincided with the first anniversary of the November 2015 terror attack at a hotel in the capital Bamako, that left 20 people dead.

Voting was cancelled in districts around Timbuktu after ballot boxes were burned by unidentified armed men, residents and officials said.

Kidal which is the stronghold of former rebels of the Coordination of Movement of Azawad (CMA), also witnessed voter boycott.

The vote was also cancelled in numerous villages in the neighbouring Gao region.

Opposition candidate Saibou Barry was kidnapped Saturday morning in the central town of Koro with his party saying his vehicle was found burned and he had been driven to “an unknown destination.”

Meanwhile, SOMALIA’s ongoing parliamentary election ahead of the presidential on Nov 30 is characterized by vote buying, fraud and violence by candidates.

The country’s auditor general Nur Jimale Farah told Voice of America (VOA) that the over 14,000 Electoral College delegates are voting for the highest bidder.

“Some votes were bought with $5,000, some with $10,000, and some with $20,000 or $30,000. But not all seats are equal. Some are influential seats and have a lot of candidates competing for them,” he said.

He also alleged that two seats in Galmudug and the other in Hirshabelle cost the winners $1.3 million each.

Farah also told VOA that some delegates and candidates were prevented from entering the election halls while polling was ongoing to secure a win for the opponents.

He explained that some of the candidates are desperate to get into parliament to get immunity and protection after a history of violence.

About half of the 275-member Lower House of parliament have been elected and more than half of the 54-member Upper House have been elected by the regional parliaments.

In another development, the European Union (EU) cannot observe upcoming presidential elections in the Gambia. Authorities in the West African country have refused the EU observer team access to monitor the process.

”We have been informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Gambia that the mission was not accepted,” an EU spokesperson said on Friday.

The EU had been ready to deploy a small team to provide a ‘technical assessment’ of the vote slated for Dec 1. Incumbent Yahya Jammeh is going for a fifth term in office since coming to power in 1994.

Jammeh comes up against two other competitors. His main opponent is Adama Barrow, who is leading an opposition coalition trying to unseat Jammeh. An election official however confirmed that an African union (AU) observer team had been accredited.

The country is currently in a two week campaign period. Jammeh recently called on his supporters to conduct a peaceful campaign, he likened electoral violence to a bushfire which he says could lead to devastating consequences.

The United Nations top official for West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, called on the authorities to ensure transparency and a level playing field during and after the polls.

At the last elections five years ago, the regional political bloc, the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) refused to send observers, citing intimidation of the opposition and the electorate.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.