A referendum vote on Mali’s new constitution has been marked by kidnappings of election officials and irregularities, a local observation mission reported after a poll noted that voter turnout was only 27%.
More than 8 million Malians were called on Sunday to vote on the draft constitution proposed by the junta, which is expected to strengthen the powers of the president.
“At the end of the poll, there were several types of incidents and malfunctions,” said the Malian Election Observation Mission (MODELE Mali), which deployed 3,075 electoral agents to observe the referendum.
The mission said that some electoral agents were abducted and ballot boxes were removed in several localities.
“In the circle of Niafunke at Tondidarou Sare, electoral agents were kidnapped, beaten and tied up by unknown assailants before being admitted to a health referral center (CSREF). Their motorcycles and phones were taken. In the commune of Kala Siguida, Cercle of Niono, the presidents of the N’godjila and Maniale polling stations were abducted by armed men,” it noted in a report.
It said electoral material was burnt in some villages and the electoral process did not function.
It also indicated that balloting did not take place in certain areas of the country plagued by terrorism and in crisis due to the activities of former rebel movements.
The was particularly notable in the Kidal region controlled by the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a predominantly Tuareg alliance that fought the state for years before signing a peace deal in Algiers in 2015, which felt that the draft did not take on board the main provisions of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali resulting from the Algiers process.
Early voting by Mali’s military on the draft of the new constitution on June 11 also failed to take place in the same zone.
Consultation on the referendum was also contested by other movements and civil society players such as the Malian League of Imams and Scholars for Islamic Solidarity in Mali (Limama).
Limama opposed the principle of secularism introduced in the draft of the new constitution and called on all patriotic Muslims to vote against the draft in its current form.
The “United Front Against the Referendum” made up of 21 political parties and civil society organizations in Mali, members of the Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques Mali Kura (M5-RFP Mali Kura) and the main armed movements that signed the peace and reconciliation agreement resulting from the Algiers process are also opposed to the draft constitution.
Malian authorities have not yet announced the results of the vote count.
The African Union has also not issued a statement so far on the vote.
The UN mission, which has been present in the country for around 10 years to support the peace process, was ordered by the government on Friday to immediately leave the country, under the pretext of the failure to accomplish its mission.
Colonel Assimi Goita, president of the transitional government, on his way to the polls on Sunday said he was “convinced that this referendum opens the way to a new Mali, strong, efficient and emerging, but above all a Mali at the service of the well-being of its people.”
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