Cablegate: Opposition Newspaper's Tally of Public Opinion In

DE RUEHBP #0812/01 2700709
R 260709Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: On September 18 Info-Matin, a Malian daily often
highly critical of President Amadou Toumani Toure, published
the results of its annual pseudo-scientific public opinion
poll. The poll asked readers' opinions on a variety of
issues including President Toure's management of the Tuareg
crisis, the oft-postponed Head of State security summit, the
Government of Mali's response to rising food prices, and
perceptions of individual government Ministers. The 1800
respondents who participated in "Malian on the street"
interviews generally proved more critical of the Malian
government and its policies. The 4400 individuals who either
telephoned in or delivered written responses directly to
Info-Matin's office, however, overwhelmingly supported key
government initiatives, including negotiations with Tuareg
rebels and price controls on rice, raising some suspicions of
a write-in attempt to influence the survey results. End

Opinions on Northern Security

2. Although not specifically aligned with the opposition
Rally for Mali (RPM) party led by former National Assembly
president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Info-Matin often stakes out
positions in line with RPM perspectives. Info-Matin's daily
circulation is estimated at somewhere between 3000 to 5000
copies, limited to the capital city of Bamako. The
newspaper's 2008 opinion poll focused on perceptions of the
Malian Prime Minister, Modibo Sidibe, and key government
initiatives including President Toure's support for a
negotiated solution with Tuareg rebels.

3. Nearly 80 percent of the 1800 individuals questioned
during on the street interviews said they did not believe
President Toure's oft-discussed and more oft-delayed Head of
State summit on Sahel-Saharan security would bring peace to
northern Mali. Conversely, more than 75 percent of the 4400
who submitted write-in responses said they believed the
summit would result in peace. More than 80 percent of on the
street respondents opposed any "new" peace agreement with
Tuareg rebels; only 26 percent of write-in respondents shared
this view. On the street and write-in respondents proved
equally skeptical of the current round of Algerian mediated
negotiations with the rebels, with a majority of each group
rating the likelihood of success as low. More than 77
percent of street respondents rated Mali's policy of dialogue
with the rebels as "bad", an opinion shared by only 18
percent of write-in respondents.

Views of President Toure's Ministers

4. The poll coincided with the one year anniversary of
President Toure's nomination of Modibo Sidibe as Prime
Minister and Sidibe bore the brunt of most respondents'
frustrations with their government. More than 78 percent of
street respondents said they were not satisfied with Sidibe's
performance as PM and 75 percent said Sidibe should be
removed during the next Ministerial reshuffle. Almost 82
percent of write in respondents declared themselves
dissatisfied with Sidibe, but only 41 percent of this group
thought Sidibe's performance merited removal from office.

5. Sidibe's low popularity level could be linked to his
apparently equally unpopular program, dubbed the "rice
initiative", to lessen the impact of rising cereal prices for
average Malians. The rice project seeks to increase rice
production by subsidizing inputs for rice farmers. More than
70 percent of street respondents said they thought the rice
initiative was not a good solution to the rising cost of
living. However, these percentages were reversed by write in
respondents, with 86 percent rating the rice initiative as
good and only 11 percent assessing it as bad.

6. Opinions varied on which of Mali's other 26 Ministers
most deserved to remain in place. Minister of Energy and
Mines, Ahmed Sow, despite being under a cloud of allegations
of corruption stemming from his previous job overseeing an
African investment project funded by the European Union, won
the most votes from the street with a little more than 15
percent. In the write-in ballots Minister Sow finished a
close second to Minister of Urbanism Salimata Gakou Fofana.
Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane finished a respectable fourth.
The least popular, or perhaps simply the most unknown,
Minister was Justice Minister Maharafa Traore.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Comment: A Measure of Public Opinion or Private Ingenuity?
--------------------------------------------- -------------

BAMAKO 00000812 002 OF 002

7. Info-Matin's poll seems to reflect a general skepticism
over President Toure's decision to negotiate with Tuareg
rebels and Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe's first year in
office. Dissatisfaction with the Malian government, however,
does not seem to be as pronounced as other issues and
headlines of Info-Matin would lead one to believe. Perhaps
the poll's most interesting result, however, was the swing
between the 1800 individuals who participated in street
interviews and the 4400 responses submitted directly to
Info-Matin. In so far as statistics go, the 1800 responses
from street interviews probably provide a more reliable
measure of Malian public opinion. However, the ratio of
write-in responses to street interviews was more than two to
one - a fact which significantly altered the poll's overall
result. The overwhelming number of write-ins raised
suspicion of a possible attempt by a resourceful individual
to influence the direction of the poll's findings by flooding
Info-Matin's offices with written responses; or it could
simply reflect a genuine divergence of opinion separating
those willing to send in written ballots as opposed to the
average citizen on the street whose literacy and education
level is likely somewhat lower than that of the average
Info-Matin subscriber.

© Scoop Media

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