Voters in Mali prepare to cast their ballots in the presidential election

26 Jul 2013

In the run-up to Mali’s presidential election, Torokorobogou school, in a neighborhood in the city of Bamako, has become a magnet for hosts of city-dwellers who have come to collect their polling cards, known in Mali as "NINA" cards.

Having waited for some time, Fata Ouattara, a former airline company employee, can finally boast that she now possesses the documentation that she needs to cast her vote for the next president of Mali.  "In the end it is our courage that will win the day. Our NINA polling cards are the one and only resource at our disposal. And we will not allow anyone to deprive us of this right," she says.

Fata, who lost her job a few months ago, has followed recent events in Mali with dismay: "The seizing of regions in the north of the country by armed groups, the military coup d'état, the confrontations that took place....we had imagined that these were events that could only happen to others, but in the end they happened to us."

Taking into account such a backdrop, this election provides the people of Mali with an opportunity to play a vital part in re-establishing order in their country. Fata continues, "This is an historic vote. One day we will be able to say that the people of Mali were free to cast their votes, and even if people ended up casting blank votes, it was a democratic choice. Such a ballot is the only way for me and other citizens to make our wishes known. And we will not allow the voice of the people to be ignored."

Through the Electoral Process Support Project (PAPEM), the UNDP manages the contributions of a number of stakeholders—the European Union, Luxembourg, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway—and also provides material and financial support in regard to organizing elections. It is within the context of such support that the General Elections Directorate obtained financing that facilitated the establishment of an individual and instantaneous consultation system for voting by SMS or through a website.

After an education campaign spearheaded by a cluster of organizations involved in the electoral process, and with a view to encouraging the electorate to cast their votes, as of July 22nd 2013, the government of Mali was in a position to announce that 82 per cent of Mali’s prospective voters had collected polling cards.

With her own polling card in hand, Fata can bask in the certainty that she will be eligible to vote on July 28th. And taking their lead from her, more than 10,000 Malian refugees who were included in the census, thanks to UNDP funding, and who meet the country’s electoral pre-requisites, will also be in a position to cast their votes in the country’s forthcoming election.