A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

Yeah Samake

Yeah Samake

We’re all familiar with unintended consequences. Recent news reports claim that the unintended consequence of last year’s Libyan civil war, which resulted in the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. According to these reports, many of Gaddafi’s trained warriors were ethnic Tuaregs from northern Mali. When they returned after the Libyan war, these fighters joined the long-simmering Tuareg rebellion, which heated up suddenly in January.

The result? Last week a group of Malian soldiers staged a coup, ousted the Malian government, and cancelled the forthcoming elections. Yes, the same elections that featured an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake.

Samake’s campaign has been popular both in Mormon sources and in western sources in general, where he has served as an interesting contrast to Mitt Romney. Some sources claimed that Samake was a front runner in the election, although as far as I can tell there was never any evidence to support that claim. [My Internet searches of Malian and other news websites (mainly in French) failed to turn up ANY poll data or assessment of who was ahead in the race. But Samake’s outsider position and the fact that he formed his own political party instead of representing one of the established parties led me to believe frontrunner status was unlikely.]

Still, for Mormons in the U. S. (and perhaps elsewhere), the idea that a Mormon might win a presidential election in another country was very appealing. As I understand it, like any good politician, Samake raised funds in the U.S. from the contacts he made as a student at BYU and through the Utah-based Ouelessebougou Alliance, a charity that has supported Samake’s home town and where he is currently the mayor. I suspect this funding gave Samake a financial bump that other candidates couldn’t match, although again a lack of western-style financial data about the election makes it hard to know how much of an impact this financial support might have had.

Getting foreign financial support, while sometimes seen as suspicious, isn’t that unusual. My neighborhood here in New York City always sees campaign visits from presidential candidates from the Dominican Republic, who seek financial support and votes from Dominican expatriates who live here. I’m quite sure that these candidates accept donations from anyone willing to give them, Dominican citizen or not.

Perhaps the main differences between Dominicans in New York City and  Mormons supporting Samake is that the Mormons can’t vote in Mali and may not have very much independent information about the situation in Mali. I wonder how much of the time this support comes simply because Samake is Mormon. Which begs the question: Should Mormons even be getting involved in this election?

For now, of course, this question is moot. The soldiers behind the coup have cancelled the elections scheduled for April 29th, and while they claim (as coup leaders always do) that the country will return to democracy, no date for elections has been set yet.

So, the perhaps unrealistic hope that Samake could win the election has become a mirage disrupted, like those ephemeral images in deserts like that in Mali, which often simply reflect what may, or may not, be farther off.

6 comments for “A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

  1. March 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

    It has been interesting to watch this situation. Nice write up, Kent.

  2. March 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    A mirage indeed. After looking into this more thoroughly after the initial flurry of Mormon and American articles, it was clear Samake didn’t really have a chance (although I don’t blame Samake for claiming frontrunner status). I think there was a better shot at getting a new party established that could possibly have had some influence in Parliament in the future. But how could we not love the idea?

    There are definitely interesting questions regarding international fundraising in any election and it would have been interesting to see how much Samake had raised overseas and how successful his fundraising was in comparison to the major candidates in the election. But that likely wouldn’t have been possible to determine, even without the coup.

    Mostly though, I am sorry about the coup. I hope Mali is allowed to get back on its feet soon.

  3. March 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Indeed, Amira. In the end what is most important is whether or not conditions improve for the Malian people — something that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the goals of those behind the coup.

  4. rae keck
    March 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    the imediate question is he and his family safe? fundraising in the USA and being presented as a leading candidate for office is not the best background for someone living through a military coup.

  5. March 27, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    A post on his campaign blog that I saw said that he and his family is safe, yes.

  6. Kris
    March 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I am sorry to hear this. I was cheering for him.

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