Mali’s draft constitution – A recipe for creating an autocratic leader
The anticipated constitutional referendum in Mali has been postponed to a date yet to be announced. The Malians were set to vote on the new constitution on 19th March, 2022.This is not first time the referendum has been deferred. It was initially scheduled for 9 July 2017, before it was postponed to 31st October 2021.Following a coup in May 2021 led by Colonel Assimi Goita, a new date was set by the junta regime that promised to return the country to civilian rule in 2024.
The postponement has been justified by the interim junta government as necessary to allow them install representations of the election management body in all regions of the country. They have also argued that they need additional time to popularise the new draft Constitution.
According to the statement read by the government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, the new date for the referendum will be set afterconsultation with the independent election management authority and all the actors in the electoral process.
Secrets Known lies in the significance of this referendum as a yardstick to test the commitment of the interim government to return the troubled country to civilian rule by superintending over credible elections come February 2024. The referendum provides the first test of the junta regime’s capacity to organise a process validated by the vote. Postponing the referendum again, does not give much confidence to pro- democracy activists given Mali’s fondness to Russia-a state championing authoritarianism in the face when democracy is under attack.
The draft constitution that awaits referendum seems to bolster the powers of the president allowing the office bearer to among other things be responsible for appointing and firing the prime minister and government ministers; and powers to dissolve the National Assembly. Additionally, the president will have the prerogative together with the National Assembly to propose laws.
The secret known is that the proposed constitution that shall vest too much power in the president, risks creating an autocratic leader with authoritarian tendencies. There are many countries that provide genuine examples on the continent, Uganda being one classic example.
Among the proposed constitutional reforms is the effort to reduce the former colonial masters (French) influence on the country by promoting the local languages to official status.
Constitutional change is one of the strings of major institutional revamps launched by the military after it ousted Mali’s last elected president in August 2020 and as such, the referendum holds much significance in returning the country to civilian rule.