Nearly 250,000 people couldn’t vote ‘for various reasons’: Mali govt

Malian opposition presidential candidates (L to R) Mountaga Tall, Choguel Maiga and Soumaila Cisse talk during a press conference about the results of the first round of the presidential election, on August 6, 2018 in Bamako, ahead of the second round scheduled on August 12. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018
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Nearly 250,000 people couldn’t vote ‘for various reasons’: Mali govt

  • The government had earlier said that 715 polling stations had remained closed out of a total 23,000 nationwide
  • The jihadist violence has spread from northern Mali to the center and south of the country and spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts

BAMAKO: The Mali government on Monday published a list of 871 polling stations which were unable to operate during last week’s presidential election due to outbreaks of violence, adding that almost a quarter of a million people had been unable to vote.
A total of 245,888 voters — mainly in northern Timbuktu region, central Mopti and Segou in the south — “were unable to vote for various reasons” during the July 21 election, the ministry of territorial administration said.
The government was responding to calls by the opposition and the European Union to provide more details of the contested vote results.
The three main opposition candidates in Mali’s presidential election announced Sunday they were mounting a legal challenge in the country’s constitutional court alleging “ballot box-stuffing” and other irregularities, after incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took the lead in the first round of voting.
Keita won 41.42 percent of the vote in July’s presidential poll, according to provisional results, easily ahead of the second place rival Soumaila Cisse with 17.8 percent. They are set to contest a runoff vote next Sunday.
The government had earlier said that 715 polling stations had remained closed out of a total 23,000 nationwide.
Two days after polling took place the European Union pressured Mali to present a “complete and detailed list” of polling stations where a key presidential election could not be held due to violence.
Security was a central issue during the campaign, in which 73-year-old Keita is seeking re-election with the international community hoping the poll will strengthen a 2015 peace accord.
In Mali’s north, where the state is barely present, armed groups who signed the peace accord helped to ensure security.
The vote was monitored by observers from the European Union, the African Union, the regional ECOWAS grouping and the Francophonie organization.
Violence also marred the lead-up to the election, despite the presence of 15,000 UN peacekeepers, 4,500 French troops and a much heralded five-nation anti-terror G5 Sahel force.
The jihadist violence has spread from northern Mali to the center and south of the country and spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts.
On Monday 18 of the presidential candidates denounced an “electoral hold-up” and called for a major protest in Bamako on Tuesday.
The constitutional court is due to officially announce the first-round results on Wednesday.
Mali, considered a linchpin state in west Africa’s troubled Sahel region, is one of the world’s poorest countries, with most people living on less than $2 a day.


Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Updated 10 min 33 sec ago
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications
  • But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.