Oumou Sangare is used to getting what she wants. Unlike most of the people lined up outside the election office here, the wife of Mali’s former ambassador to the United Nations is not accustomed to hearing the word ‘no.’ Yet that’s exactly what the elegant, middle-aged woman heard earlier this week after making her way to the front of the line of would-be voters who, due to a technical glitch, don’t appear on the voter list for the upcoming presidential election. Clutching her designer handbag, she stood on tiptoes in her petite heels, straining to peer through the open window of the election headquarters, where a clerk typed her name into a database. “I’m the wife of the ambassador,” she pleaded after the screen came back blank. “I’ve been voting for years,” she said. “Am I not going to be able to vote?”
Mali’s presidential election is set to go ahead on Sunday despite massive logistical and technical lapses, including a voters’ roll which inexplicably is missing the names of tens of thousands of registered voters. Those being disenfranchised include both the rich and the poor, and worried election officials say the stage is being set for the results to be contested.
The July 28 election is the first to be held since last year’s coup, and the international community has pressured Mali to hold the ballot hoping to return the nation to constitutional rule. Over $4 billion dollars in aid pledged by donors for Mali’s reconstruction is on hold until a legitimately elected government is installed, a main factor which has pushed authorities to go ahead with the poll. Yet the problems with the electoral list as well as security and logistical challenges in the north of the country risk robbing the future president of the very legitimacy the election is seeking to restore.