The Malian government has decided to postpone the constitutional referendum to a later date. What jeopardizes the transition schedule?
The entire timeline was tailor-made to please the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Because between Mali and the regional body, the discussions had been tough when deciding on the duration of the transition. But Bamako ended up offering ECOWAS a compromise. It was then about work on a new constitution, last summer, and to organize a constitutional referendum on 19th March next. Then, everything was going to be linked until the presidential election next February.
Except that the Malian government has just announced the postponement of the constitutional referendum. At first glance, there is no ill will on the part of Mali: the government assures that a return of the institutions is an "absolute priority" and that "the head of state is firmly committed to respecting this date" . So why postpone the first ballot in a long series? Officially, there is no independent election management authority, which should allow the smooth running of future votes.
"It's an announcement that is not meaningless," summarizes an observer of Malian political life. To vote in complete transparency, you need a precise framework. This postponement is therefore logical, and this is also why ECOWAS did not condemn the Malian decision”. If a good organization of the referendum is therefore the priority of the government, certain opponents of the military junta see in this postponement a way of extending the duration of the transition.
Shifted schedule or caught up on delay?
And the official reason does not necessarily satisfy everyone: civil society, in particular, deplores the fact that no new date has been announced. However, according to her, it is quite possible to call on voters to go to the polling stations from the start of the summer. Enough to leave enough time to create the independent electoral management authority. Even if this implies, subsequently, other operations such as the distribution of electoral cards.
Questioned by RFI, the former Prime Minister Moussa Mara sees it as "a cause for concern". It was possible, he said, to “prepare logistically to meet deadlines”. Before qualifying "The transition is, by definition, a period of uncertainty, so we can understand that we are late". It now remains to be seen whether the entire transition schedule will also be shifted or whether the delay will be made up thanks to compressed deadlines.
In the meantime, the government must very quickly work on the installation of the independent election management authority. Because once created, the authority must install its regional branches and set up the electoral process.
And beyond that, political leaders are of different opinions: some believe that the absence of security in Mali will inevitably weaken the electoral process. Others call for reforms before discussing the Constitution. Finally, the latter, like the socialist Amadou Koita, demand the pure and simple cancellation of the constitutional referendum, considering that the previous texts are sufficient in themselves. And that it is already possible to move forward on the rest of the electoral process.