A Pre-Election Technical Assessment Report of Capabilities and Needs: July 8, 1991

Publication Date: 
7 Jul 1991

Publication Type:



In January 1991, after 23 years of dictatorship and growing popular dissent, Mali's capital city revolted. Two months later, a group of military officers took over the country to quell escalating insurrection, vowing to set up a democracy with a multiparty system and free elections within nine months. Interim President Amadou Toumani Toure, and all the other military leaders of the temporary government plan to march back to their barracks on Army Day, January 20, 1992, with a freely elected President and a democratic government system in place.

To accomplish this, they have set up a provisional government called the Transitional People's Salvation Committee (Comite du Transition pour le Salut du Peuple, or CTSP), and have called for a national conference to adopt a new constitution, electoral law, and multi-party system. Then they must hold a national referendum on the constitution; divide the country into legislative districts if they adopt a single member district system; hold legislative, municipal, and presidential elections; and runoff elections, all in the next six months. Their credibility is high because they are working rapidly, and have appointed former Finance Minister Soumana Sako, "the incorruptible," to act as interim Prime Minister.

Mali's commitment to democratization is evident and the country probably has the capability of succeeding. The team believes that Mali's efforts merit support from the outside world as it could demonstrate successful political reform to other emerging nations. The success of democratization in Mali will depend not only on good systems, but on openness and fair play in the conduct of elections and the public trust that will be developed.

Current election systems, while adequate for a single party election, are unwieldy for multicandidate elections. There are three most urgent needs: a nationwide immediate communications and reporting system; simplified balloting and printing systems; and supplemental, trained staff to assure civic education, census taking, and election worker training.

Supplemental radio equipment and a regional FAX network would be very useful. The most cost effective, labor saving simplification would be that of using a single ballot with symbols to identify candidates, so that both literate and illiterate voters could identify their choice among the candidates. Several key advisors to work with elections officials will be invaluable to the process.

The final election calendar should be based upon careful analysis of the administrative exigencies of each event. If events are too closely scheduled, slippage will occur and confusion and errors will ensue. To prevent this, three elections (constitutional referendum; combined legislative, municipal and presidential; candidate runoffs) with single (multi-candidate) ballots are recommended, rather than the five separate election days currently envisioned.

Due to time limitations, supplies should be preordered and advance planning of simplified processes should be undertaken as soon as possible. It is crucial that ministers at all levels coordinate their operations and empower their staffs to act upon need.

International observers should be invited to visit polls and certify 'election probity. Candidates' representatives, by their presence, can also assure fair election practices at all polls, but some assistance in coverage will be needed if all polling places are to have candidates' representatives.

Computerized voting lists and processes will be useful in the future, but are not feasible at this time. On the other hand, computers and other office equipment can be used productively now at commission secretariats, National Conference offices and elections headquarters at the Ministry of Territorial Administration.

The provisional government is encouraged not to hesitate in soliciting the international community both for material and human assistance. Particular areas warranting support include equipment and supplies for the CTSP Working Committees and National Conference; communications and other equipment for the Ministries of Communications and Culture, and Territorial Administration; printing of single ballots and other basic forms; polling booth equipment; and four experts plus support staff for several projects. The experts would include a technical advisor to the National Conference to proceed to Mali on or about July 20 for four weeks; a media expert to design public information and education programs and assure that public broadcast messages match those of election workers; also a systems and operations expert to assist the Director of Elections. A final staff training expert would design and advise on election worker training, streamlined census and voter list preparations, election day activities, and would help train and supervise 300 unemployed college graduates to act as temporary assistants to Chefs d'Arrondissement to carry out local elections. This would provide jobs for some of the many qualified graduates and perhaps lead to eventual permanent government or private sector employment.

Mali has chosen a big job for itself, but nothing could be more worthwhile than self determination in the search for legitimized political stability for nine million of the people of Africa.

Read the Full Report.