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Key findings
  • About four months before the August coup, almost nine out of 10 Malians (86%) said the country was going in “the wrong direction,” up from 52% in 2014. Even among supporters of the ruling coalition, 82% agreed.
  • Three-fourths (74%) of citizens said corruption increased during the year preceding the survey, including 62% who said it increased “a lot.”
  • Eight out of 10 Malians (81%) described the country’s economic condition as bad, including 45% who said it was “very bad.”
  • Approval of the president’s job performance was at the lowest level that Afrobarometer has recorded since it started surveys in Mali in 2001. Six out of 10 citizens (61%) “disapproved” or “strongly disapproved” of the way the president was doing his job.
  • More than eight out of 10 citizens (82%) said they trust the military at least “somewhat,” including 62% who expressed “a lot” of trust in the armed forces. Fewer than half (47%) said they trust the president
  • In Afrobarometer’s 2017 survey, large majorities said the Malian armed forces “often” or “always” protect the country from internal and external security threats (80%) and that they act professionally and respect all citizens’ rights (69%).
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of Malians said they prefer democracy over any other political regime, and even larger majorities reject military rule (69%), one-party rule (76%), and one-man rule (87%).
  • Malians also expressed strong support for key democratic institutions and practices, including elections as the best way to choose leaders (75%), presidential accountability to the National Assembly (77%), and the president’s duty to obey the country’s laws and courts (80%). But only half (51%) would prioritize accountability over efficiency in government.

After weeks of massive demonstrations demanding President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s resignation, thousands of jubilant Malians celebrated the military coup that removed him from office on 18 August (Al Jazeera, 2020). But some observers were left to wonder whether democracy in Mali is dead.

The coup has been widely condemned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Western leaders, who insist that Keïta be reinstated (Ahmed & Petesch, 2020; France 24, 2020; BBC, 2020). The coup leaders have refused, while vowing to steer the country back toward elections and democracy.

The fact that many Malians seemed to welcome the coup should not come as a surprise. Findings from an Afrobarometer survey in March-April 2020 show deep dissatisfaction with the status quo, including widespread perceptions that the country was off track, that the economy was in a shambles, that corruption was growing rapidly, and that their elected officials were untrustworthy.

At the same time, the armed forces, along with traditional leaders, enjoy far higher levels of popular trust. Amid deepening dissatisfaction with the government and inept management by elected leaders, many Malians may have seen the coup as the country’s best chance to escape a downward spiral.

But Afrobarometer also documents Malians’ insistence on democracy as the country’s path forward. Even if many citizens appear willing to accept military intervention in the short term, they reject military rule as a system of government. Findings suggest they will hold coup leaders to their promise to call elections and transition back to civilian government (Maclean, Diouara, & Peltier, 2020).

Massa Coulibaly

Massa Coulibaly is executive director of the Groupe de Recherche en Economie Appliquée<br /> et Théorique (GREAT), the Afrobarometer national partner in Mal

Carolyn Logan

Carolyn is the director of analysis and capacity building at Afrobarometer.

E. Gyimah-Boadi

Gyimah is the chairman of the board of directors at Afrobarometer