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With support, Mali could provide a rare democracy success story

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Chip East/Reuters

(Read caption) Mali's Prime Minister Cisse Mariam Kaidama Sidibe addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on Sept. 23.

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It’s not that Mali doesn’t have problems (especially poverty), but in many ways the country exemplifies the kinds of reforms Western governments ask African countries to make: Mali is a democracy that has peacefully transferred power from one president to another, and its current prime minister is a woman. So I hope that those same Western powers will listen to the prime minister’s appeal, made in New York recently, for financial and logistical support during the country’s 2012 presidential elections. Mali will also hold a referendum next year on proposed changes to the legal and political systems.

[Prime Minister Mariam Kaidama Sidibe] told the UN General Assembly in New York that next year’s referendum and elections would be the culmination of a lengthy consultative process launched by the country’s President, Amadou Toumani Toure.

‘Toure, is not running for re-election, so as to consolidate democracy, good governance and the rule of law,’ Ms. Sidibe said.

Consolidation, I think, is the perfect word to describe Mali’s goal for next year. After two terms under President Alpha Konare (1992-2002) and now two terms under Toure (or ATT, as he is nicknamed), the next election will almost certainly see a second peaceful transfer of power, which some political scientists say is the sign of a full-fledged democracy. ATT is not only not contesting, but has so far abstained from endorsing any particular candidate, so the election is quite open. With the proper support, the 2012 elections should be quite a success.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.


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