Daily News: Voting, in Mali and Zimbabwe, Tests Elections Organizers

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Daily News: Voting, in Mali and Zimbabwe, Tests Elections Organizers .
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Malians go to the polls on Sunday to determine whether to grant a second term to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.Zimbabweans will cast votes Monday in the first election since longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced to resign in November.Whether constituents have confidence in the results of these elections – and those in at least two other sub-Saharan African countries in coming months [or: and those in Cameroon in October and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December] – depends on whether they perceive the vote as free and fair.Much of that responsibility falls to election organizers.In Mali, that’s at least three separate entities.In Zimbabwe, it’s the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), a nominally independent body.“The challenge many election bodies have is living up to the expectation of independence and the integrity with which they do their work,” said Rushdi Nackerdien, African regional director for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.The foundation, based just outside of Washington, D.C.,provides technical support and guidance for democracies.“You’ve got a lot of cynicism that has crept into citizens’ belief about democracy,” he added.Numerous countries have seen increasing attacks on core elements of democracies, including “guarantees of free and fair elections,” the international watchdog group Freedom House reported early this year.A Gallup poll shows that fewer than half of Zimbabweans (47 percent) “are confident in the honesty of their country’s elections.”While that’s down nine points from two years ago, it is still “the highest rating in any election year in the past decade,” Gallup noted in a Twitter post on Friday.Nackerdien acknowledged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has done some things to shore up confidence, such as allowing international observers – including the first European Union team in 16 years – and making voter rolls public.U.S.Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican lawmaker, also will be among the observers.The United States has said lifting sanctions – imposed on Mugabe and those close to him for allegedly rigging votes and violating human rights – would depend in part on whether the southern African country’s elections are fair and transparent.But ZEC also has been dogged by controversies, including accusations that it favors the ruling Zanu-PF party and that its ballot paper design unfairly benefit

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