Democracy deferred: Mali junta indefinitely postpones constitutional referendum

Democracy deferred: Mali junta indefinitely postpones constitutional referendum

Mali’s interim government said it would postpone a constitutional referendum that had been set to take place this month, and which was seen as a key step on the country’s path towards restoring democracy after a military takeover in 2020.

“The transitional government informs national and international opinion that the date of the referendum scheduled for 19 March 2023 … will be slightly postponed,” the junta said in a statement released on Friday, March 10.

The delay means the military will miss the first deadline on its own timetable to hold democratic elections and eventually return the country to civilian rule. The junta running the West African country pledged to hold presidential elections in February 2024 following pressure from regional powers to lay out an acceptable democratic transition timeline. The announcement came as a shock to many since it follows immediately after Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga’s reassurance that the referendum will take place “according to the constitution and, God willing, this referendum will take place.”

The delay had nonetheless been expected for some time because almost no arrangements had been made for the vote and the draft constitution was handed over to interim president and coup leader Assimi Goita only in late February. The region’s main economic and political bloc ECOWAS lifted a set of trade and financial sanctions against Mali in July after the military government committed to a March 2024 handover. The stiff sanctions were imposed in January 2022 after the transitional authorities strayed from a previously agreed upon electoral calendar, planning to remain in power for up to five years.

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