The military junta in Mali has postponed its presidential elections scheduled for February 2024, which was anticipated to restore the country to 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 examine its election data and address a newly introduced constitutional provision that would extend the timeline for the second round of voting.
“The transitional government specifies that the new dates for the presidential election will be communicated at a later date, following discussions with the Independent Election Management Authority (AIGE),” said the government spokesman, Abdoulaye Maiga.
In August 2020, the democratically elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown by soldiers led by Colonel Assimi Goita. The coup was the final straw that broke the camel’s back considering that Keita has been grappling with the issues posed by inter-ethnic violence, leading to the tragic loss of thousands of lives and the displacement of hundreds of thousands from their homes. The 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 military promised to restore civilian rule within 18 months. However, seven months into the transition process, the military junta removed the interim president and swore in Goita as president of the transitional government. In June 2021, Colonel Assimi Goïta became the interim President. Initially, He was the vice-president of the country’s new transition government that was 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 decision of the junta to postpone the elections indefinitely. The M5-RFP opposition coalition criticized the “unilateral” decision to delay the two rounds of voting – initially slated for February 4 and 18, 2024 – saying the junta needs “to respect its commitments.”
Mali is currently facing attacks from armed groups linked to al-Qaida, the Islamic State group, and ex-rebels whose peace deal with the government 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 transition government, especially within certain political parties and civil society organizations. The extension could lead to repercussions such as sanctions from sub-regional organizations and also the international community.
Hamadoun Niangado, a media consultant based in Bamako believes that the potential consequences of this extension on a national level would involve witnessing attempts at mobilization and protests within some political parties and civil society organizations, even if they have little chance of success. “There might be a slight deterioration in the social climate. On the international front, the focus is more on the economic sanctions from regional organizations. All of this is yet to be seen.”
The coup in Mali has greatly impacted different sectors of the country’s economy. It caused uncertainty in the political landscape, discouraging foreign investments and impeding international trade. “The tourism industry suffered as political instability dissuaded tourists. Agriculture, a vital sector for Mali’s economy, experienced disruptions in supply chains and reduced security in certain regions. Additionally, assistance and aid from international donors were affected. Services like banking and transportation faced interruptions, and job market instability led to increased unemployment,” he added.
ECOWAS imposed economic and financial sanctions on Mali at the onset of the coup. The bloc closed land and air borders with Mali and suspended most commercial and financial transactions. When the election timetables were revised by the military government, ECOWAS lifted the sanctions and opened the borders, although some individual sanctions were not altered. 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, must pursue the diplomatic route. It is the option that should be explored to engage with the transitional authorities for a clear and realistic timeline, agreeable to all stakeholders.
The return to a democratically elected government offers hope for Mali’s economic recovery, though the present realities tell a different tale. Mali’s economic recovery outlook, following its return to a democratically elected government, hinges on several critical factors. Niangado notes that a stable political climate is anticipated to attract foreign investments, particularly if the government showcases a commitment to transparency and business-friendly policies.
“Economic diversification beyond traditional sectors, improved infrastructure, social welfare initiatives, regional collaboration, and effective debt management are crucial aspects to support recovery. Resilience to external shocks and inclusive, sustainable growth will play pivotal roles in shaping Mali’s economic trajectory,” he said.