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Mali political parties request elections after junta shuns transition promise

Mali's President Assimi Goita in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on July 29 2023. File photo.
Mali's President Assimi Goita in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on July 29 2023. File photo.
Image: Alexander Ryumin/TASS Host Photo Agency via REUTERS

Political parties in Mali have requested a time frame for presidential elections after the ruling junta failed to organise polls within a promised 24-month transition back to democracy.

Mali has been under military rule since August 2020, the first of eight coups in West and Central Africa over four years, including in its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger.

Regional blocs have been trying to negotiate transitions but the interim governments are dragging their feet.

Mali's current junta seized power in a second 2021 coup and later promised to take 24 months from March 2022 to restore civilian rule, with a start date of March 26 2024 and elections in February.

It passed a new electoral law in June 2022, but said in September last year that it would postpone February elections for technical reasons, sparking outrage among political groups.

Many reacted again after last month's transition deadline lapsed without a vote.

In a joint statement late on Sunday, some of Mali's main political parties and civil society groups called on authorities to set up an institutional framework for polls as soon as possible.

"We will use all legal and legitimate avenues for the return of normal constitutional order in our country," they said in the statement, which has over 20 signatories, including a major opposition coalition and the toppled ex-president's party.

The junta has not reacted.

Mali's military rulers already failed on a first promise to hold elections in February 2022, prompting stiff sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

That damaged relations with former colonial power France, which withdrew forces in 2022 that had been fighting a spiralling 12-year-old Islamist insurgency in the region.

Ecowas, West Africa's main political and economic body, eventually lifted Mali's sanctions after the new electoral law was published.

Junta-led Chad is meanwhile scheduled to hold the first round of a presidential election next month in what would be the first of the region's military governments to restore constitutional rule.

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