Election workers in Mali on Wednesday ended a two-week strike over working conditions, lifting a threat to a looming vote, a union said.
Organisers agreed to end their strike and the distribution of voting cards had resumed on Wednesday, Ousmane Christian Diarra, secretary-general of the National Syndicate of Civil Administrators, told Reuters.
An agreement between two unions and the government gave the workers a salary raise, but Diarra said officers would continue to press for more concessions.
“We have not accepted the government’s offer for bonuses and allowances, but we have agreed to suspend the strike while negotiations continue,” said Diarra.
“This is to avoid undermining the electoral process with the strike,” he added.
Two unions representing local administrators – whose tasks include distributing voter cards – had extended their strike on Monday.
The government has repeatedly insisted that elections will take place as scheduled.
Aboubacar Djire, a technical adviser at the Ministry of Territorial Administration, denied that the strike would affect the elections.
“There are commissions in charge of distributing voting cards, and these commissions continue to work,” Djire said.
But the unions are not giving any assurances about the elections taking place as scheduled.
The strike will impact the organisation of the elections. There was a whole work programme scheduled this week that will now be called into question
Malians are due to vote on July 29 in a presidential election that many hope will chart a way out of six years of political unrest and violence.
But attacks had cast doubt on the government’s ability to hold the elections on time even before the strike, which disrupted the distribution of voting cards.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced on state TV in May that he would run for re-election.
Keita, 73, had been widely expected to run for a second term, but had not confirmed his intention.
A dozen other candidates have announced their candidacy, the strongest of which is seen as opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, a former finance minister.
Last week, at least six people were killed and several others wounded in an attack by unidentified fighters on the headquarters of an African military taskforce in central Mali.
Four civilians were also killed on Sunday by a car bomb that targeted French troops in the north.
The UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali, Alioune Tine, sounded the alarm on Tuesday about deteriorating humanitarian and security situations.
“These attacks have become more and more deadly and recurrent … with the implication of armed groups causing a grave and worrying evolution that must be urgently addressed,” he said in a statement.
Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied fighters seized its desert north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year.
Those groups have since regained a foothold in the north and centre, using the sparsely-populated Sahel as a launchpad for attacks across the region.