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Soumaila Cisse: 'Truth always triumphs'

August 20, 2018

Cisse still refuses to recognize the victory of incumbent President Ibrahim Boubar Keita in last week's runoff election, alleging electoral fraud. He spoke to DW in an exclusive interview to explain his concerns.

Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse
Image: Getty Images/I. Sanogo

Mali's opposition leader Soumaila Cisse has continued to claim victory in the second round of the Malian presidential election, despite the constitutional court confirming the re-election of President Ibrahim Boubar Keitawith a margin of 67.16 percent to 32.84 percent. Cisse claims he won the runoff with almost 52 percent of the vote and has filed a petition alleging that some of the votes were rigged. However, Mali's constitutional court has rejected the petition as inadmissible. Cisse spoke to DW in an exclusive interview, explaining his concerns over Mali's electoral process, his reasons for filing the petition, and the response from the international community to President Keita's victory.

DW: You are officially the runner-up of the second round of the presidential election — at least according to the results announced by the Ministry of Territorial Administration. But you are, unofficially at least, the new President of Mali, according to your own figures. What will your next steps be in the coming hours and days?

Soumaila Cisse: I believe the truth always triumphs. We just witnessed an election which went very badly. Even during the first round, all candidates denounced the fraud which was taking place. We wanted to save what was left, hoping that the other side would pull itself together and at least work towards transparency. This time, we have not let it happen. We have flushed out the fraud and I think that the entire international community, all those who have come to Mali, are aware that fraud has taken place and the outgoing president, if he is installed, would take office under a false result. So we have tried to justify our figures, to present them to the public and to the national and international press to prove that 250 people cannot possibly vote at a polling station which is only open for 10 hours — let alone 700 or 800 people as we have heard from some other polling stations. Any number of voters or ballots which exceeds a certain threshold is evidence of ballot stuffing. So, we removed this from the official results, we did the calculations accordingly and I won this election with 51.75 percent of the vote. We are justified in saying that we won this election. It is now a matter of convincing Malians. That's why we were so transparent in explaining the pattern with which we did our calculations. It's a clear pattern which leads to victory.

If your requests are not taken into account, as was the case during the first round of the election, what will you do?

We'll advise. I don't think we are alone in this fight. When we see how young people have mobilized in such an extraordinary way, in Bamako and in other different regions, it's obvious that there is a popular movement behind all this. It is the people who are always right. I believe that the people understand the truth, the Malian people know the truth. 

Some believe that the election should not have even progressed to the second round, given the extent of the fraud. How do you respond to this?

We must not give up. If I had adopted this attitude, it would mean giving President Keita a blank cheque for the next five years, with no chance of reform. Our democracy was going to get bogged down in a kind of fatalism, by saying that whoever is in power will be in power, despite the fact we know that he cheated. I think it will take a few courageous people to look at the situation and say, no, we don't agree, and then invest themselves and their time to change it. If our victory is not stolen, if we do not accept a stolen election, we will succeed. Because one of the first reforms I will make is the reform of the electoral system.  To make sure that those who organize the elections are independent, because in Mali, the Ministry of Territorial Administration organizes the election from beginning to end.

Yes, but the current government claims you were also involved in the drafting of the new electoral law…

No. You can't be part of the electoral law when you are a minority. I must remind you that we are a total of 33 [opposition ministers] against 147 lawmakers in the National Assembly. It's obvious our voice doesn't count. We boycotted, we voted against, we made motions of censure, we made amendments. But the law is the law. The majority decides. And the majority decided in [President Keita's] favor. You know, we fought until the end. Even to keep our assessors, those who represent me. At the time of the vote, there were offices in which, unfortunately, the two assessors were in the majority in the battle for proxies. But we fight. We must fight.

Let's talk about the reactions at the international level. French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as his predecessor Francios Hollande, have already congratulated President Keita on his victory. Does this not reduce your space to manoeuvre?

No. I think Mali is Mali and France is France. Presidents Macron and Hollande are acting as the French and I am acting as a Malian. One thing is certain: I am not going to congratulate the president, because according to our practices we have to wait for the constitutional court to proclaim the final result of the presidential election. France may have other ways with dealing with these matters. I respect that. But it does not affect our determination to continue the fight. And if we suceed in the fight, I'm sure they'll congratulate us too. I think this is good diplomacy [on their part]. I don't take much offence.

Soumaila Cisse is a Malian politician and president of the Union for the Republic and Democracy party since 2014. He served as Mali's Minister of Finance from 1993 to 2000 and stood three times unsuccessfully as a presidential candidate in 2002, 2013 and 2018. 

This interview was conducted by Mahamadou Kane.