The head of Mali’s ruling junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, received a draft of a new constitution on Monday, amending a draft that was contested last fall, his office said, without saying when it would be put to a referendum.
This Constitution is a key element of the vast reform project invoked by the military to justify its continued rule. Its adoption would be an important step in the timetable leading to elections in February 2024 and a return to civilian rule.
The content of this new draft presented as “final” by the Malian presidency had not been made public early Monday evening.
In the timetable drawn up by the junta, this Constitution was supposed to be submitted to a referendum on March 19. But with less than three weeks to go, there is growing doubt that this deadline will be met, and the Malian presidency’s statement is silent on the subject.
“The final document, which I have just received today, will undoubtedly crystallize the hopes of the entire nation for the establishment of a true democracy,” said Colonel Goïta, quoted in the statement.
Colonel Goïta was among the officers who overthrew the civilian presidency in 2020. He was invested president of a so-called transition period following a second putsch in 2021.
The draft that was handed to him on Monday amends a draft that was disclosed in October 2022. The content of that draft and the very relevance of a new constitution has been questioned by a number of political parties and actors who have struggled to make their voices heard, however, in a context where any organized protest has been reduced to almost impotence.
Parts of the draft “have been deleted, some merged and others reformulated,” said the coordinator of the commission that finalized the draft, Fousseyni Samaké, in the presidential statement. The statement does not specify what has been changed in the draft. The draft has 191 articles instead of 195, he said.
The draft considerably strengthened the powers of the president. It also ruled out the possibility of a federation that would have given strong autonomy to the north of the country, where the independence and salafist insurgencies started in 2012, beginning a deep security and political crisis that continues today.
The question of a possible candidacy of the regime’s strongman remains unanswered, despite an initial commitment by the junta that the transitional president would not be allowed to run.
The current constitution, dating from 1992, is considered a factor in the crisis in the country, which has seen three coups since 1991 and five since independence.
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