Djenné is gripped with election fever, and the youth has taken to the streets in support of their candidates- an excuse for a big street party really, and there are good vibes in the air, and no real animosity between the different camps. The election for the regional representative at the Assemblé Nationale will take place on July the 1st, and it is a five-yearly event. This time around it is particularly exciting, because the present representative has held his office for thirty years and although he is standing again, it is more or less a forgone conclusion that he will not be voted in- not only is he ancient, he is generally known to be losing his marbles.
Although there are a plethora of candidates, many of them independent, the battle proper seems to be between two candidates representing two rival parties. It is hard to see quite the difference between them. The election campaigns are both promising improved water supply in Djenne, better education opportunities, sport facilities, improved infrastructure - roads etc. There are no ideological differences - no left or right-( in fact just like modern day UK, perhaps?) Although Djenné is a very religious place, there is no sign of any muslim fundamentalism in these elections. On this subject I have already noticed how the majority of Malians I meet are very pro-West, to the extent that some were even strong Bush supporters and in favour of the Iraq war.
Everyone I know , more or less, is supporting RPM (Rassemblement Pour le Mali), whose candidate is Maitre Baber Gano, a lawyer originally from Djenné but operating in Bamako- a slick orator, as befits a lawyer. Nevertheless, I have a sneaking suspicion that he gains the majority of his support not so much by the quality of his ideas or speeches as by the superior style of the shirts and fabric he doles out to his supporters.
Baby kissing is also a Malian election strategy, and practised with aplomb recently in the presidential elections by Amadou Toumani Toure, the re-elected president of Mali.