President gets sweeping powers in Mali’s new constitution

Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defense in Bamako, Mali, August 19, 2020.

Colonel Assimi Goïta now has the power to dictate government policy and dissolve parliament

Mali’s military government has adopted a new constitution that strengthens the powers of the president and the armed forces.

He also created a senate and demoted French from official language to working language.

Mali has been ruled by a junta since 2020.

The opposition movement has denounced the reforms, which the electoral commission said were backed by 97% of the votes cast in last month’s referendum.

The official body said the turnout was 38%.

Critics fear the changes will make it easier for the generals to break their promise to return power to civilian leaders after a presidential election in February 2024.

The new constitution means that the interim president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, can now dictate government policy and has the power to dissolve parliament.

A legal action to have the results of the referendum annulled, because the vote did not take place in all regions of Mali, was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

“Numerous irregularities” and “violations of the law” also meant that the referendum result had to be annulled, according to Mali’s opposition movement – made up of political parties and civil society organisations.

It was called a “plot against democracy” by Ismael Sacko – the leader of the Social Democratic Party which was dissolved last month by the junta. He told the Malian justice “to pull itself together”, reports AFP.

The military junta enjoyed huge popular support when it seized power after mass protests against then-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta three years ago. People were fed up with economic uncertainty, contested elections and chronic insecurity.

Since then, data suggests that Mali’s military government has made little progress in its fightback against the Islamists who control parts of the country.

But the government says the new constitution will stop the spread of the 11-year-old jihadist insurgency.

Mali recently decided to expel the 12,000 UN peacekeepers in the country and is believed to employ 1,000 Russian Wagner Group mercenaries for security support.

French soldiers were ordered out last year and there has been growing resentment of the former colonial power and its current relationship with Mali and West Africa more broadly.

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