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Citizen observers keep watchful eye over Mali election

media A woman votes during the second round of presidential elections in Bamako, 11 August Reuters/Joe Penney

The second round of Mali's historic presidential elections today is being watched closely by a 100-strong team of European Union observers. A small group of local volunteers is also keeping a watchful eye over the voting process and to report irregularities.

In a luxurious hotel here in central Bamako, 26 young Malians sit in front of their laptops while taking phone calls.

Audio report 11/08/2013 - by Leonard Vincent in Bamako Listen

This is the "nerve centre" of the Citizen's Election Observation Hub, managed by several local NGOs.

“We have 2,100 Malian observers dispatched to many polling stations from 8 am to 6 pm. They will send through data to us via text messages," said Ibrahima Sangho, the spokesperson of this coalition of civil society organisations.

"Our hub is composed of two other elements. The technical room with 26 computer experts collecting the data sent by the observers, and 78 supervisors dispatched throughout the country.”

A large screen at one end of the room shows a digital map of Mali, on which the data collected by the observers is displayed in real time.

Songho said the Citizen's Election Observation Hub was concerned about the electoral process.

“After the first round, we said that education campaigns on the voting process should be strengthened. Together with the constitutional court, we uncovered the loss of about 400,000 votes that were declared null, mainly due to two factors: first, people went to the polling stations in huge numbers with very little knowledge of the correct voting process. Secondly, the electoral agents themselves weren’t properly trained to recognise an invalid vote from a valid one," he explained.

Luc Diarra, an English teacher, used to live close to the city of Gao in the north of Mali and was sent there to train his fellow civil society observers.

He is confident today's vote will go well, thanks to the mobilisation of the Malians themselves.

"I'm really confident because I think the people are really willing to vote this year. It's a particular year for the Malians...I'm really proud to participate to this job and this vote."

These citizen observers are expected to announce the results of their findings on Monday.

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