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By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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ABUJA, Nigeria, November 26, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) said Mali's legislative elections of Sunday 24th November 2013, took place “in acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency.”

In its Preliminary Declaration in Bamako on Monday, the 100-member Mission led by Prof. Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia's Government of National Unity, noted that the “shortcomings observed, did not in any significant way, affect the conduct of the election in line with globally acceptable standards.”

“Though not intended, the disenfranchisement of some young voters and some electorate in the insecure north, as well as the low turn-out in the elections, are regrettable,” the Mission said in the four-page, 17-point declaration, read by a member of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, Ambassador Leopold Ouedraogo.

The other shortcomings noted by the Mission included:

- Inadequate sensitization of voters on the relocation of some polling stations since the Presidential election, particularly in the northern regions of Gao and Timbuktu;

- late display of Voters Lists at several polling stations across the country, which resulted in difficulties in locating polling stations;

- Poor representation of women, who constituted only 14% of the more than 1,140 candidates, as well as “an isolated case of ballot box snatching in the northern region of Kidal.”

However, the Mission observed that the processes and conduct of stakeholders on Election Day showed “a marked improvement” over the Presidential elections of July/August, including the timely arrival of electoral officials, early delivery of essential materials and the orderly conduct of voters.

Ahead of the second round of the legislative election in a few weeks' time, the Mission urged the relevant electoral management bodies to ensure adequate voter sensitization and early display of voters lists in polling stations.

While welcoming the scaling up of counter-terrorism and security operations in the north of the country,” the ECOWAS EOM urged the allied forces to maintain the momentum in order to further improve the security environment, particularly in Gao, Kidal and Tessalit.”

It “encourages the political parties to intensify efforts in party building, ensure greater internal party democracy, and implement affirmative action in favour of women and the youth to enhance their competitiveness and representation in critical decision-making institutions of the state, particularly the National and Communal Assemblies.”

The EOM congratulated the political parties, candidates and the electorate for their peaceful conduct in the electoral process, and encouraged them to show the same maturity during the processes of collation and declaration of results.

“It also enjoins them to seek solutions to any grievances exclusively through legal channels.”

“The ECOWAS EOM is convinced that the conclusion of the legislative elections will endow Mali with another legitimate platform to spearhead the on-going reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. It reiterates the commitment of ECOWAS to accompany Mali in these processes,” the Mission said.

While expressing appreciation to the UN Mission, MINUSMA, the French Force, Operation Serval and the entire International Community for their support to the Malian efforts aimed at re-establishing and stabilizing the security, political, and institutional order in the country, it condemned “the recent upsurge in sporadic terrorist activities and calls on all armed non-state groups to submit to disarmament and join the dialogue and reconciliation process.”

More than 6.5 million registered Malian voters went to the polls on Sunday to elect members of the country's 147-seat Parliament.

The deployment of the ECOWAS Observation Mission is in furtherance of efforts aimed at helping Mali conclude the ECOWAS-facilitated transitional road map for the restoration of full constitutional order and the country's territorial integrity following last year's military coup and separatist insurrection in the north.