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Mali delays anticipated referendum towards democracy

Mali‘s interim government has postponed the country’s much anticipated constitutional referendum.

This is a key step in the country’s path towards elections meant to restore democracy after a military takeover in 2020.

“The transitional government informs national and international opinion that the date of the referendum scheduled for March 19, 2023 … will be slightly postponed,” it said in a statement.

The referendum is a milestone on the road to elections promised for February. With its postponement, the military will miss the first deadline on a timetable it drew up to return Mali to civilian rule.

The announcement came a day after Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga told Al Jazeera that the referendum will take place “according to the constitution and, God willing, this referendum will take place”.

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“The deadline remains the date we were able to negotiate with ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States], and the head of state is firmly committed to respecting this date,” the government statement said.

The delay had been expected for some time because almost no arrangements had been made for the vote and the draft constitution was handed over to interim president and coup leader Assimi Goita only on February 27.

ECOWAS lifted a set of trade and financial sanctions against Mali in July after the military government committed to a March 2024 handover.

The sanctions were imposed in January 2022 when the military government was considering remaining in power for up to five years.

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