Voters in Mali are casting their votes today, Sunday, in a referendum on constitutional changes, paving the way for elections and the return to civilian rule, according to the ruling military council and regional powers. The military council had promised to hold the referendum as part of the transition to democracy under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
However, some amendments in the proposed constitution drafted by the preparatory committee have sparked division, with supporters arguing that they will strengthen fragile political institutions, while opponents claim they will grant the president more powers.
Regional bodies and the United Nations view the referendum itself as a crucial test for the military council’s commitment to the transitional process and conducting a democratic process nationwide, especially at a time when extremists are intensifying their attacks. Interim President Assimi Goita stated in a televised speech on Friday, “With this project, we are betting on the future of our country and the restoration of its authority and confidence between institutions and citizens.” He added, “It is time to reaffirm our commitment to the new Mali.”
The draft constitution includes amendments proposed in previous failed efforts to revise the constitution. Supporters hope these amendments will enhance democracy and address divisions, including the establishment of a second parliamentary chamber to enhance representation from all parts of Mali. Preliminary results of the referendum are expected within 72 hours of voting, and presidential elections are scheduled for February 2024.