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France - Mali

France presses Mali to hold election date

Tension in Kidal, Mali, on July 19, 2013
Tension in Kidal, Mali, on July 19, 2013 REUTERS/Stringer

France is eager to see Malians head to the polls later this month, despite difficulties in organising the vote as they await a military handover to the United Nations. Scheduled for July 28, the vote is key to reuniting the country after an 18-month conflict that led to a French intervention with 4,500 troops to help drive out Islamist rebels from the North.

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But some are criticising the rush to vote as scores of people remained displaced and unrest persists in some areas of the country.

Earlier this year President Francois Hollande said, "We will be uncompromising," bolstering a pledge already made by interim president Dioncounda Traore to hold the elections.

France views the elections as an opportune moment to launch a reconciliation process between Malian communities in the North and South and handover power to a civilian government.

Military officers deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012, paving the way for Tuareg and Islamist fighters to seize control of the north.

But with the imminent vote, some Malian politicians are expressing worry.

Last week, Tiebile Drame, one presidential contender, withdrew his candidacy over the lack of preparation and to rebuke interference from the country's former colonial power.

He was in part referencing Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius' two trips to the country in April and May to ensure authorities were keeping their promises to hold the vote on time.

However, France has since pointed out that Mali picked the date.

Last Saturday, election workers were abducted by gunmen in the Tessalit area while distributing voter identification cards and later freed, according to local officials.

The governor of northern Kidal province, Adama Kamissoko, told the Associated Press news agency that they had been kidnapped by Tuareg rebel group fighters.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that even if the election is "imperfect", the results "must be respected".

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