Monday, July 29, 2013

LDS Candidate Yeah Samake Unlikely To Win Mali Presidential Election, But Might Make A Worthy Economics Minister

Update August 2nd: It's official -- Yeah Samake finished as an also-ran, earning just 0.56 percent of the vote. Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will have a run-off with former finance minister Soumaila Cisse on August 11th because Keita’s 39.24 percent of votes failed to secure a 50 percent + 1 majority. Cisse earned 19.4 percent of the vote. Some complaints about irregularities, particularly spoiled ballots, have surfaced.

Although the first official figures from the July 28th, 2013 Presidential election aren't due to be released until July 30th at the earliest, a preliminary report published by Blouin News indicates that Yeah Samake, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who graduated from BYU-Provo, is unlikely to win the election, although there's a remote possibility that he could qualify for a runoff. Full provisional results are expected by Friday August 2nd, and a runoff election between the two leading candidates would take place on August 11th if no candidate secures over 50 percent of the vote. Turnout has been reported at 51.54 percent, although several hundred thousand northern Malian refugees who fled their homes during last year’s fighting were reportedly excluded from the vote. Nevertheless, two days before the vote, Louis Michel, who is the head of the EU observer mission, declared that the conditions required for a credible vote had been met, and the U.S. State Department has issued a statement congratulating the Malian people on a peaceful and orderly election. Here's a video showing Samake on the campaign trail just two weeks before the election:

Although Samake, who represented the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action (PACP), was one of 27 candidates in the race, the media is touting former Malian prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse, former prime minister Modibo Sidibe, and Dramane Dembele, the candidate of Mali's biggest party, as the leading candidates. Keita and Cisse are considered the most likely to win. France24 published a list of the top eight candidates back on July 24th; the list appears to be grouped in order of prominence, and Samake was included on the list. One of the primary challenges facing the winner is to secure a long-term peace with Tuareg separatist rebels based in the northern part of the country, which is mostly desert. The election is expected to pave the way for donors to disburse some three billion euros in reconstruction aid promised back in May 2013, well after the Tuareg rebellion was put down in January with the help of France. The Tuareg rebels were helped by al-Qaeda fighters.

While most of the leading candidates are prepared to accept the outcome, Soumalia Cisse said he would contest the results if there was no runoff, claiming significant instances of fraud at polling stations in Bamako, the country's capital. As for Samake himself, he's posted no new statements on his official campaign website pending the first official results. Samake's economic success as mayor of Ouélessébougou indicates that if he doesn't win the presidency, he could be a lead candidate to to serve in the country's Economics Ministry.

But even if Samake is given no role in a future national government, he has, by virtue of his faithfulness, integrity, and personal courage, performed a valuable service mission for the LDS Church. Like Mitt Romney in the United States, Yeah Samake in Mali brought many people to a knowledge of the church who otherwise might not have been exposed to it. Because of his example and influence, the LDS Church could begin to seriously grow in Mali. And it needs to grow, since the LDS website indicates no formal LDS Church organization in Mali yet. Yeah Samake's the man who could jumpstart it.

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