27 November 2015

TVC NEWS, BAMAKO - Mali's presidential election will be "extremely difficult" to organise in July, the country's election commission boss has said, raising doubts over the possibility of the crucial poll.

A communique issued by cabinet in May officially announced that the election will hold on July 28.

The poll is seen as essential to restoring democratic rule after a coup last year created a vacuum in government that allowed Islamist rebels to capture swathes of the country's north.

The new government is expected to lead Mali out of a crisis that has crippled the country since a Tuareg rebellion for independence of the north in January 2012.

Mamadou Diamountani told AFP that the instability in the northeastern desert town of Kidal occupied by Tuareg separatists, was a challenge to holding the first round of elections on the specified date.

The town still has no army presence despite a ceasefire between the transitional government and the rebels signed on June 18 in Burkina Faso.

Kidal was, Diamountani said "another reason making it extremely difficult, if not impossible" to hold the first round in July.

He further told AFP that it will be "extremely difficult to organise the first round of the presidential election on July 28," adding that there were "many challenges to overcome" before a nationwide vote could take place.

"Firstly, we have to recognise that the production of polling cards is way behind schedule. But this is the only document that allows the voter to vote. It isn't just an identity card, but also a voter registration card," he said, according to AFP..

He said it will be difficult get up to eight million cards to the electorate in a country where up to 500,000 people have been displaced by armed conflict in the last year.

"It will take more than a month for the cards to get to their owners, because the way the Malian ministry of administration operates is not convincing," he said.

Acting president Dioncounda Traore has said that neither he nor his ministers will stand in the polls, which will go to a second round on August 11 if required.

France had pressed Mali's interim government to organise the elections and complete a democratic transition after a coup in March 2012.

Mali's Tuaregs had fought alongside hardline Islamists to seize control of the north, but were quickly pushed aside by better armed Jihadists.

They imposed a strict form of Sharia Islamic law in northern cities like, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu and threatened to advance on southern cities, like the capital Bamako.

It took the intervention of French-led forces to halt the advance of the rebels, retake the main northern cities and push the al Qaeda-linked militants into desert and mountain hideouts.