New constitution for Mali: Malians have approved with 97% of the vote the draft of a new constitution submitted by the transitional authorities of this West African country, the electoral authority said in Bamako on Friday, publishing provisional official results.
New constitution for Mali
The turnout was 39.40%, announced the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which announced the provisional results at a ceremony at the Bamako International Conference Center.
Turnout is traditionally low in Mali, but voting, which took place on Sunday, was also hampered in many central and northern localities, either by fear of terrorist attacks or political disagreements.
The referendum is an important step on the road to a return to civilian rule in March 2024.
This will be the fourth constitution, after the current one dating from 1992 and those of 1974 and 1960. Some 8.4 million Malians were asked to say yes or no to the text.
New constitution for Mali: Main new features
The new constitution strengthens the powers of the future president, who will determine national policy, and affirms the country’s commitment to a republican and secular state.
Under the new constitution, “the government is accountable to the President”, rather than to the National Assembly. The initiative for legislation would rest with the President and parliamentarians, rather than with the government and the National Assembly.
The president would be elected for a five-year term, and could not serve more than two terms, according to the new constitution.
ECOWAS congratulates the transitional government
Following the announcement of the holding of a referendum on a new constitution in Mali on June 18, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission was quick to congratulate the country’s transitional government.
In a message addressed to the authorities in Bamako, the ECOWAS Commission expressed its satisfaction at the convening of the Republic of Mali’s electoral college on June 18, 2023 for the constitutional referendum to adopt the country’s new constitution.
The communiqué adds that the ECOWAS Commission congratulates the transition government on this decision, which marks an important step in the implementation of the transition timetable for a return to constitutional order.
The note goes on to say that the sub-region’s institution reiterates its readiness to support the transition government throughout the transition process towards a return to constitutional order.
Victory for Goïta with the approval of the new constitution
Colonel Assimi Goïta, who took power in Mali in August 2020 during a change of military government, has just scored a significant victory.
The new constitution, which substantially strengthens the powers of the president, has been seen by some as a strategy to ensure that the military government, led by Colonel Goïta, retains its influence even after the presidential election scheduled for February 2024.
The text also emphasizes the country’s “sovereignty”, a theme dear to the president since his takeover.
However, the referendum process was marked by several irregularities and incidents, particularly in the center and north of the country.
Fear of jihadist attacks and political disagreements were cited by some as factors behind these obstacles. In addition, several armed groups in the North, who had previously fought the central state before signing a fragile peace agreement in 2015, prevented voting from taking place in certain regions, arguing that the new constitutional text did not respect the terms of this agreement.
Nevertheless, the approval of the new constitution is an important victory for Goïta and the military government.
“The big difference with the 1992 Fundamental Law is that this new text takes into account the evolution of Malian society”.
For constitutional law professor Fousseyni Doumbia, the 1992 Constitution did not take into account the various changes in society. He believes that the draft Constitution takes into account dimensions linked to international commitments signed by Mali. It was not the case of the old Fundamental Law.
Highly critical of the text, he believes that it fails to take into account most of the concerns of Malians, themselves divided by the crisis. At the same time, Professor Fousseyni Doumbia deplores the fact that the draft Constitution is overloaded with ambiguous articles.
In his view, the project took relatively little account of issues linked to the rebuilding of Mali.