Suspended presidential elections, what could this mean for Mali?

by MMC
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The military junta in Mali has postponed his presidential elections scheduled for February 2024, which should restore the country with a democratically elected civilian government. The postponement of the presidential elections is due to “technical reasons” as the transitional government needs more time to thoroughly review its electoral data and respond to a new constitutional provision that would extend the deadline for the second round of voting.

“The transitional government specifies that the new dates for the presidential election will be communicated later, after discussions with the Independent Electoral Management Authority (AIGE),” indicated government spokesperson Abdoulaye Maiga.

In August 2020, the democratically elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by the military led by Colonel Assimi Goita. The coup was the final straw as Keita grappled with the challenges of inter-ethnic violence, leading to the tragic loss of thousands of lives and the displacement of hundreds of thousands people from their homes. Demand for his resignation was fueled by a combination of poor reforms, a failing economy, deteriorating public services and schools, and a widely held belief about government corruption.

The army has promised to restore civilian rule within 18 months. However, seven months after the transition process began, the military junta removed the interim president and installed Goita as president of the transitional government. In June 2021, Colonel Assimi Goïta became interim president. Initially, he was vice president of the country’s new transitional government led by Bah Ndaw.

This is the second time that Mali’s military government has postponed the country’s presidential election. Political parties in Mali have condemned the junta’s decision to postpone elections indefinitely. THE Opposition coalition M5-RFP criticized the “unilateral” decision to delay the two rounds of voting – initially scheduled for February 4 and 18, 2024 – saying that the junta must “respect its commitments”.

Mali is currently facing attacks from armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and ex-rebels whose peace deal with the government has failed in recent weeks. This tumultuous situation has been exacerbated by a wave of coups in Africa’s Sahel region.

There are undoubtedly concerns about the extension of the transitional government, particularly among some political parties and civil society organizations. This extension could lead to repercussions such as sanctions from sub-regional organizations but also from the international community.

Hamadoun Niangado, a media consultant based in Bamako, believes that the potential consequences of this extension at the national level would be to witness attempts at mobilization and protest within certain political parties and civil society organizations, even if they have unlikely to succeed. “There could be a slight deterioration in the social climate. On the international stage, there is more emphasis on economic sanctions from regional organizations. All this remains to be seen.

The coup d’état in Mali has had a considerable impact on different sectors of the country’s economy. This has caused uncertainty in the political landscape, discouraging foreign investment and hampering international trade. “The tourism industry has suffered from political instability which has deterred tourists. Agriculture, a vital sector for Mali’s economy, has experienced disruptions in supply chains and reduced security in some regions. Additionally, assistance and aid from international donors has been affected. Services like banking and transportation have been disrupted, and the instability of the labor market has led to increased unemployment,” he added.

ECOWAS imposed economic and financial sanctions were imposed on Mali from the start of the coup. The bloc closed land and air borders with Mali and suspended most trade and financial transactions. When the electoral calendars were revised by the military government, ECOWAS lifted the sanctions and opened the borders, although some individual sanctions were not changed. Mali is still suspended from ECOWAS decision-making bodies.

It is crucial that any support from the international community to restore civilian rule in Mali takes the diplomatic route. This is the option that should be explored to engage with the transitional authorities for a clear and realistic timetable, acceptable to all stakeholders.

The return to a democratically elected government gives hope for an economic recovery in Mali, even if current realities tell a completely different story. Mali’s prospects for economic recovery, following its return to a democratically elected government, depend on several critical factors. Niangado notes that a stable political climate should attract foreign investment, particularly if the government demonstrates a commitment to transparency and business-friendly policies.

“Economic diversification beyond traditional sectors, improved infrastructure, social protection initiatives, regional collaboration and effective debt management are crucial aspects to support the recovery. Resilience to external shocks and inclusive and sustainable growth will play a central role in shaping Mali’s economic trajectory,” he said.

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