Mali could delay post-coup elections, interim prime minister says
DAKAR, Sep 27 (Reuters) – Mali could postpone presidential and legislative elections scheduled for next February to avoid their validity being challenged, its post-coup prime minister has said.
Mali’s progress towards democracy following the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020 is being closely watched in a region that has seen four coups d’état in 13 months, including two in Mali.
Under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mali’s new military leaders agreed to an 18-month transition that would culminate with presidential and legislative elections on February 27, 2022.
But in an interview with Radio France Internationale and France24 on Sunday, interim Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maiga said that date could be postponed by “two weeks, two months, a few months”.
“[The electoral calendar] was based on ECOWAS requirements without asking what practical steps need to be taken to get there, ”Maiga said. “The main thing for us is less to stick to February 27 than to hold elections that will not be contested.
Maiga said a final date will be determined by the end of October.
ECOWAS has not yet responded. Last month, the bloc said it would impose sanctions, including asset freezes, on anyone delaying preparations for elections in Mali. Read more
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the United Nations on Monday that French military efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel “are not sustainable without political stability and respect for the democratic process”.
“I have particularly in mind the calendar of elections in Mali, which must be strictly observed,” he said in a video statement at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.
Maiga also responded to reports that Mali is about to strike a deal with a Russian company, the Wagner Group, to hire private military contractors to help fight Islamist insurgents.
“We are at the stage of rumors and often even disinformation,” he said.
As soon as Mali has reached an agreement with a country or a partner, it will be announced, he said.
“We will have no shame in making it public,” he said.
Diplomatic and security sources told Reuters that Mali was close to a deal with the Wagner group. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Malian authorities had turned to a private Russian military company. Read more
The possibility of such a deal sparked opposition from France, which said the involvement of Russian military contractors was incompatible with a continued French presence in the West African state.
Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Cooper Inveen Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Angus MacSwan
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