The Elections

Some words and images on the presidential election.

I have a few stories to re-tread, and I’ll get to them over this week, but I wanted to post about the elections while the subject was still relatively fresh. By now, everyone knows that Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) is the landslide winner and president elect of Mali. The elections are being regarded as a success. The EU has given it the official blessing, and surely others are soon to follow. The Malians are very proud of the way the elections turned out, and they should be.

There were two main schools of thought leading up to the elections. The first, championed by Mali-watchers like Bruce Whitehouse, argued that the election was being pushed upon the Malians sooner than was reasonable, and the potential for long term disaster due to dis-satisfaction with the results was high. The opposing viewpoint held that elections held in July/August would allow the Malians to move on from a lingering interim government, and being the process of rebuilding their country. Waiting any longer would only drag things out.

There was a 3rd viewpoint, which I personally subscribed to, but was not often discussed in the media: IBK was always going to win. None of the other candidates ever really stood a chance. Postponing the election would have served no practical effect on the outcome, but would retard Mali’s post-intervention development by another 90 days to six months, at least. In the end, IBK was going to win, so let’s get it over with. Many of the Malians I spoke with held this viewpoint.


IBK won by a landslide, as predicted. Thankfully, satisfaction with the election among the Malians seem high. Voter turnout among the bulk of the Malian population was impressive: 48% in the firstround, 45% in the second, (for comparison, voter turnout in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election was 57.5%) and Soumaila Cisse’s dignified concession of defeat seems to have set the stage for a smooth transition back to a democratic government.

The election was not without its hiccups, however. In both rounds voter turnout among expatriated Malians was low, and non-existent in the refugee camps, as was feared. Should IBK’s government fail to properly begin reconciling with these communities, it is likely they will fall back on the belief that IBK is not their president, because they didn’t get to vote, let alone vote for him. Only time will tell if the rushed nature of the elections will have a net positive or negative effect, though I certainly hope for the former.


I ended up covering the election for European Pressphoto Agency, Assocated Press, Al Jazeera, and France 24. It turned out to be a (thankfully) busy few weeks for me, and I decided to focus my efforts on Bamako rather than make the trip up north, as many of my colleagues did.

M y EPA photos of the first round didn’t do so well in comparison to the photos from the north, as media attention was largely focused on Timbuktu and Gao. Despite that, EPA gave me a nod with a “Photos of the day” select for my picture of Cisse’s camp reacting to the news of the runoff, and one of my photos of a man voting in Bamako was the EPA’s teaser image for their News section for a few weeks.

With everyone back in Bamako, I moved back to AP for the second round. Nobody could really afford to stay in the north for the second round, and my photos did a lot better/ place. At one point, France 24 ran a twit-pic highlighting an AP photo of mine, followed by footage of IBK voting in which you could see me fighting for an angle, and then cut to me live for correspondence. That’s probably the most media attention I’ll ever get, and it makes me laugh.


Al Jazeera ran a photo story of mine on the elections, but unfortunately technical issues on their end caused the images to come out looking blurry, and most of my updated images never made it into the cut. For this post I’ve put up a collection of photos taken from all of my coverage, but most of it is from Al Jazeera. It’s unfinished, because IBK still has yet to make a public appearance since winning, and his inauguration won’t be for a few weeks. That said, I’m quite happy with where it stands. Check the whole set out below.

1 Comment

  1. Sean

    Great photos, Tom! Congratulations on this excellent work.


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