Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Recent Elections in Mali

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 on Recent Elections in Mali

By Emily Guthrie and Ekaterina Ksenjek | Customer Success Manager, Data Analyst

Despite the looming threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the kidnapping of presidential candidate and opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, Mali held their first round of parliamentary elections on March 29, 2020. The elections saw roughly 35% turnout overall and just 13% turnout in the capital city of Bamako, likely due in part to fears about the spread of the virus, especially as Mali confirmed its first case a few hours before the first round of elections were held.

Mali held the second round of elections on April 19, which were again threatened by intimidation and the possibility of increased jihadist violence. According to umbrella watchgroup Synergie, Sunday’s turnout was 23.3%, with the first results to be announced at the start of the week. President Keita had encouraged voters to go to the polls in the days leading up to the run-off, promising that every health and security precaution would be rigorously applied.” Synergie observed that such precautions were indeed being taken, noting poll workers wearing masks and anti-virus protection kits distributed among the polling stations. It seems that for those that chose to make it out to the polls, the importance of the elections, which have been postponed since 2018, outweighed the risks of violence and the pandemic.  

Currently, Mali has 293 confirmed cases and 17 reported deaths. However, these numbers are likely to rise as Mali’s neighbors are all in the top quarter of African countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases. In response to the virus, the Malian government recently shut down international borders, banned gatherings over 50 people, and temporarily closed schools.

In February 2020, we began asking our contributors to share how COVID-19 has impacted their communities, spending habits and concerns about the future. Over the past several weeks, Premise has dove deep into survey and photo submissions to understand the potential impact that virus has had on the recent elections.

Impact on Social Distancing

With typical voter turnout at around 40%, concerns about the virus likely contributed to lower levels in this years’ elections. Recent survey responses from Mali have highlighted widespread concerns about the virus and indicated a trend toward increased social distancing. More than three quarters (85%) of our contributors reported that they were ‘very concerned’ (42%) or ‘concerned’ (43%) about the spread of their virus in their community.

As of April 20, more than half of contributors (60%) reported that COVID-19 had had a ‘major effect’ (34%) or ‘moderate’ (26%) on their willingness to travel.

Moreover, 65% of contributors reported that they had altered travel plans because of the virus.

Finally, the majority of contributors (67%) reported that COVID-19 had had a ‘major’ (36%) or ‘moderate impact’ (22%) impact on their willingness to be in public spaces.

However, despite apparent concerns overall and about willingness to travel and be in public areas, recent photo submissions from Mali indicate a lack of adherence to social distancing measures immediately before the elections as evidenced through football games and packed markets.

Football game outside of Bamako on April 17.
A crowded market in Dogodouman. Taken April 15.
A crowded market in Bamako. Taken April 16.
A crowded market on Election Day, April 19.

Protective Measures

While sources stated that protective equipment was available at 96% of polling stations, Premise contributors noted recent shortages in protective equipment in a survey about the economic impact of COVID-19. Of the 61% of users who reported product or supply shortages, 74% reported shortages in supply masks and 62% reported shortages in disinfectants.

The majority of recent photo submissions from Mali did not show individuals wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), Premise did, however, find a select number of submissions with individuals wearing masks.

Individuals with masks. This photo was taken in Bamako on April 20.
Man with a mask outside of a clinic in Bamako. Taken on April 20.
One mask can be seen on an individual in crowded street traffic. This photo was taken in Bamako on April 20.

Trust in Institutions

While the official results of the election have not yet been announced, it is possible that the spread of COVID-19 had an impact both on the number of voters who participated and support for or against particular candidates. Premise’s longitudinal sentiment survey data highlights mixed opinions on both trust in national and local governments. Respondents reporting that they ‘strongly agreed’ that the national government was establishing public policies that enable a satisfactory standard of living dropped by 9% over the past 30 days and those who ‘disagreed’ increased by 11% over the same period. Trust in local government saw a similar trend with a 13% decrease in respondents reporting they ‘strongly agreed.’ However, for both the national and local governments, the majority of respondents agreed they were establishing policies that enable a satisfactory standard of living.

With regard to healthcare, the majority of Premise contributors in Mali (42%) reported that they were satisfied with their household’s ability to access healthcare. In the past 30 days, Premise observed a 10-11% increase in contributors who responded that they were ‘dissatisfied’ and ‘very dissatisfied’ with their ability to access healthcare. The majority of Premise users (48%) reported being ‘satisfied’ (38%) or ‘very satisfied’ (10%) with the overall affordability of healthcare services, however, the largest change was observed in those who were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied,’ an increase of 12% and 13% respectively over the same period.

In the months ahead, Premise will continue to focus efforts in countries with upcoming elections to gain a deeper understanding of the role COVID-19 is playing in how communities prepare for and participate in democratic processes. To learn more about how Premise is tracking the effects of COVID-19 in our global networks, please visit www.premise.com/COVID-19. If you would like to learn more about how Premise can help you get real-time insights from across the globe, email us at info@premise.com.

About Emily Guthrie and Ekaterina Ksenjek

Emily Guthrie, who is a Customer Success Manager in D.C., comes from an international development and humanitarian assistance programming background. She spent five years in Iraq working in education and peacebuilding and more recently supported food assistance, livelihoods and WASH programs in Yemen. At Premise, Emily focuses on project operations and delivery for public sector and international development projects.

Ekaterina Ksenjek is a Data Analyst at Premise, working to create dashboards and uncover relevant insights behind the trove of available data. Prior to joining Premise, she worked in the digital marketing space and has many years of experience working with domestic political data. She has a background in economics and international affairs and is passionate about the use of data and technology to create a meaningful impact on society.