The Administration of Elections – Mali

The Administration of Elections


Elections in Mali are jointly administered by the Ministry of Territorial Affairs, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and the General Office of Elections (DGE). Each of these entities has a specified role in the overall administration of elections.

The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI): The CENI was established in Malian Law by the Electoral Law 97-008/AN – RM of January 14, 1997. It was passed in a context characterized by high tension between the ruling party and the opposition parties. When the CENI was established by the 1997 law, it was the sole entity in charge of organizing elections, putting together electoral lists, announcing provisional results, managing all technical and material operations, as well as supervising the electoral process.

The law 02-007/AN – RM of February 12, 2002, and the law 04-012/AN – RM of January 30, 2004 which subsequently amended the 2002 law, brought reforms to many areas such as the designation of the authorities in charge of elections. The provisions of the law 20011-085 of December 30, 2011 states that the CENI is in charge of supervising and monitoring presidential, legislative, local elections and referendums. In addition to having a national office, the CENI has representatives in the District of Bamako, the cercles, the municipalities and the embassies of consulates of the Republic of Mali.

The national CENI office has 15 members: 10 members are appointed by political parties between the ruling majority and the opposition on an equitable basis, 1 member is designated by religious groups, 1 member by the Bar Association, 1 member by the independent union of judges, 1 member by human rights associations, and 1 member by the Consortium of Women’s Non Governmental Organizations (CAFO).

The General Office of Elections (DGE): This office was created as part of the institutions in charge of elections by the law 02-007/AN – RM of February 12, 2002. The General Office of Elections is in charge of making and managing the electoral lists, the production and printing of electoral cards, and finally the management of the funding process for political parties. It can also provide assistance to the CENI upon the latter’s request.

The Ministry of Territorial Affairs: This office is responsible for the technical and material preparation of referendums and general elections. In other words, it is responsible for elaborating the procedures and implementing all electoral operations for referendums and other elections. It consolidates and proclaims the provisional results of referendums as well as presidential and legislative elections. It conveys the minutes of referendums, presidential and legislative elections to the Constitutional Court and consolidates and preserves minutes of municipal elections.

Debates on the administration of elections

The debates about the administration of elections in Mali are centered on the various entities involved in the process and the delineation of their responsibilities. There is often confusion regarding the respective jurisdictions of the Ministry of Territorial Affairs, The General Office of Elections and the CENI which has a negative impact on the conduct of elections. The involvement of too many entities leads to a less effective electoral process.

Additionally, there are several difficulties related to filling all of the positions available on the CENI. There are two interpretations of Article 5 of the electoral law which states that the representation of political parties to the CENI is conducted on an equitable basis between the majority and the opposition. The opposition’s interpretation is an equal sharing of the number of representatives of political parties to the CENI between the two sides. In other words, five members should be appointed by the opposition and five members by the majority. As for the presidential majority’s interpretation, equitable distribution here means that representation at the CENI should be based on the proportional political weight of the political parties. In other words, the number of representative at the CENI should be proportional to the number of party members belonging to the majority and the opposition at the National Assembly and at municipal councils.

However, since the CENI is an ad hoc institution, there is no consensus on these matters. This is why the former President of the Republic of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, had initiated vast institutional reforms to improve democratic practices in Mali. The Committee in Charge of Institutional Reforms (CARI) was established to implement the reforms with a mission to organize brainstorming sessions, regional and national consultations, and revisit some legal documents such as the Constitution, the Political Parties Charter, the Legal Status of the Opposition, and the Electoral Code.

CARI produced a political reform program for the strengthening of democracy in Mali. One of its recommendations was to establish a General Agency in Charge of Elections that would take over some of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Territorial Affairs, the CENI and the DGE regarding the organization of elections. This agency would also proclaim the results of presidential and legislative elections, which until now has been the responsibility of the Constitutional Court. The Agency was supposed to be independent in order to ensure the fair and impartial organization of elections.

Despite that 2012 was an electoral year in Mali, the referendum was not held because of the military coup that occurred in March 2012 following the rebellion in the North of the country. In addition to the proposed referendum, legislative and presidential elections were also postponed. The referendum raised several debates, many wondered whether it should be held since it was proposed by an outgoing president and others questioned the usefulness of the proposed changes. The choice of procedures for establishing the electoral lists also created a heated debate. The debate on the electoral process continued during the transition period as the Government organized the elections of July 2013, in a context characterized by:

  • Lack of security in northern Mali due to the presence of terrorist groups in the area
  • A large number of Malian refugees in neighboring countries and IDPs (Internally Displaced People) in several cities of the country
  • A deep political crisis (For the Malian population, political leaders are responsible for the weakening of the State)
  • The military’s intrusion into the political process

Two months before the July 2013 transitional elections, the debate on the equality between men and women for access to elected and appointed positions was revived. It was introduced by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) who demanded from political parties and from the authorities of the Transitional Government that they respect the provisions of the Constitution on equality between all citizens. However, despite the advocacy of the Lobbying and Advocacy Network (RPL), no provision regarding parity has been introduced into the Electoral Code. RPL is an initiative of the Network of African Women Ministers and Parliamentarians (REFAMP) working in cooperation with other CSOs.

Technical and logistical aspects in the organization of elections

For the most part, there are no major problems regarding the logistical organization of elections in Mali. The institutions in charge of the organization of elections have gained a great deal of experience in this area. They take adequate measures in security and chain of custody to safeguard the confidentiality of the vote. However, significant challenges remain such as the electoral staff at polling stations which, generally speaking, do not have the required training to conduct the voting process.

Regarding financial aspects, the electoral budget is determined on the basis of the needs identified by the appropriate entities in charge of the organization of elections.

It has been noted that compensation for the staff of Administrative Committees in charge of Voter Registration is less in comparison to that of the staff of the DGE performing similar work on the same committees. This situation may negatively impact the work of these administrative committees which are responsible for the updating of electoral lists. This fact was noted by a Malian civil society organization, APEM (the network of NGOs in Support of the Electoral Process), in its pre-electoral observation report of 2012. The Constitutional Court plays a role in the organization of elections by validating and proclaiming the electoral results and adjudicating electoral disputes.

There were many challenges regarding the organization of the transitional elections held in July 2013, some of which included:

  • Providing security for the entire electoral process
  • Restoring and providing administrative services in northern Mali
  • Creating a consensual biometric electoral list, despite persistent problems with the census data
  • Mobilizing resources for the elections (overall budget estimated at 68 billion CFA, 25 billion of which came from the national budget and the remainder from Mali’s international development partners. 68 billion CFA and 25 billion CFA are respectively about 136 million and 50 million US dollars)
  • Producing and distributing NINA cards (national identification cards) to identify voters
  • The vote of refugees and IDPs
  • The short time available for the organization of elections (February to June 2013)
  • Organizing awareness and information campaigns to familiarize people with the NINA cards
  • Raising the level of voter participation in the election

Useful links and documentary resources

This post is also available in: Français (French)