Under pressure from France and other Western powers, Mali held a presidential election on Sunday that some observers said the country was not ready for and that risked excluding thousands of its citizens. Voting went off peacefully, nonetheless, in an election that Mali’s numerous donors deemed crucial to restoring the country’s stability after more than a year of turmoil: an Islamist takeover in the desert north in the spring of 2012; a military coup in the capital; French military intervention to forestall Islamist advances in January; and the flight of nearly 200,000 inhabitants beyond Mali’s borders. Mali, a poor West African desert nation, has been ruled by a makeshift, unelected government since March 2012, with no parliament, few functioning state institutions and a weak, military junta-approved president. Billions of dollars in aid have been promised by international donors but only if the country has at least the appearance of democracy. That meant proceeding to a hasty election that some of the country’s politicians, research institutes like International Crisis Group, and even the country’s electoral commission warned might be premature.
Still, all over Bamako, the capital, on Sunday, long, orderly lines formed, and citizens dipped their fingers in dye to show that they had voted. Many suggested that, however imperfect, the election would put an end to months of uncertainty.
“Life has been hard this year,” said Djibril Doumbia, a shop owner voting in the Lafiabougou neighborhood. “It’s time to vote. We need a president who can get us out of this crisis.”
Better to plunge ahead, one of the leading candidates suggested in an interview, than to wait for perfect conditions. “Is a country ready for elections when 80 percent of the population can’t read my platform?” asked Soumaila Cissé, a former finance minister who is considered well positioned, among 27 candidates, for a possible August runoff. “Why can’t people read my platform?” he continued. “Because people haven’t had the chance to go to school, to be educated.”
Full Article: Mali Holds Elections After Year of Turmoil – NYTimes.com.