Mali junta defies mediators with 5-year transition plan

AP International

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s military junta wants to extend its rule for five more years, putting off the next presidential election until 2026 despite a deadline of next month set by West African regional mediators.

Under its plan, a constitutional referendum would be held in 2023 and a legislative election would take place in 2025. The presidential election would be put off until 2026, according to the proposal, a copy of which was obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.

“This five-year period is appropriate to conduct the political and institutional reforms leading to the organization of general and referendum elections,” the junta’s proposal said.

The regional bloc known as ECOWAS, which has threatened to impose more sanctions if the junta fails to conduct the election by the end of February, responded to the junta’s proposal by calling for a special meeting in one week.

The military leaders who overthrew Mali’s democratically elected president already had negotiated an 18-month political transition period that is due to expire at the end of February. The junta’s time frame, outlined in the document sent to regional mediators last week, significantly extends their time in power.

The current transitional government, led by the coup leader, would remain in place until January 2027, according to the document.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said on national television that while the proposal calls for five more years, the transitional government was open to discussions on that.

Mali’s junta maintains that elections cannot be held because of deepening insecurity across the country, where Islamic extremists have been fighting a decade-long insurgency.

The French military, which helped push the militants from power in northern Mali in 2013, is in the process of drawing down its troop presence in Mali, and many fear the departure will only deepen the crisis.

The man now leading Mali, Col. Assimi Goita, took power in August 2020, promising to swiftly return the country to democratic rule. Doubts deepened about his intentions, though, after he effectively launched a second coup nine months later, forcing out the chosen transitional leaders and becoming president himself.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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