Mali votes despite coronavirus and security fears

Published March 30, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

Malians voted in a long-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday, barely a day after the country recorded its first coronavirus death and with the leading opposition figure kidnapped and believed to be in the hands of jihadists.

The risk of catching coronavirus looms over a parliamentary election in Mali (AFP / MICHELE CATTANI / MANILA BULLETIN

There were security fears about the vote to elect new MPs to the 147-seat National Assembly even before the war-torn West African country recorded its first coronavirus infection on Wednesday.

No official turnout figures were released after the polls closed in the evening but it was clear to observers that fears of the virus and the threat posed by jihadists had kept the numbers down.

At midday, observers from a group of civil society associations had put it at 7.5 percent.

Prime Minister Boubou Cisse admitted earlier that the turnout had not been very high.

“I appeal to the voters: remember to respect the barrier gestures and use the sanitary measures,” he said as he voted, adding that the numbers voting were “sufficiently satisfactory”.

Malian voters greet each other without touching their hands outside a polling booth
Just hours before polls opened on Sunday came the news of the country’s first coronavirus death — a 71-year-old man recently returned from France. Mali’s number of confirmed infections has risen to 20.

There are fears that the impoverished state of some 19 million people — where large swathes of territory lie outside state control — is particularly exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“I came to vote, but I’m afraid,” said Souleymane Diallo, a 34-year-old teacher voting in the capital Bamako.

“As you can see there’s nobody here. Maybe because it’s the morning, but it’s also not surprising because of the situation.”

The first elections results are not expected for several days. A second round is scheduled for April 19.