Mali Could Delay Post-Coup Elections, Interim PM Says

On September 27th, 2021, the Prime Minister of Mali, Kokalla Maïga, said that the upcoming presidential and legislative elections, set for February 27th, 2022, could be delayed in order to ensure that results are not contested. Prime Minister Maïga stated last week before the UN General Assembly that “the main thing for us is less to hold them on February 27th than to hold elections that will not be contested.” How long the elections could be postponed was not stated, however, the Prime Minister said that a final decision would be made sometime in October. In August 2020, the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, was forced to resign and overthrown by a military coup after months of protests amid economic turmoil. This upcoming election is supposed to mark Mali’s path towards a democratic future and political stability. 

While Prime Minister Maïga stated that “it is better to organize peaceful elections, recognized by all, rather than to organize elections that will be disputed,” according to Africa News, many believe that the delay in elections may deepen political instability, and delay the restoration of civilian rule. Earlier in September, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expressed fears in delaying the elections, stating it will only halt economic relief, which the impoverished country cannot afford. According to France 24 News, ECOWAS reiterated “the importance of respecting the date of the announced elections in order to demonstrate the credibility of the transition process.” The ECOWAS allowed for an 18-month period of transition to allow for preparation for elections. At the time, Colonel Assimi Goïta agreed to the period of transition with an interim civilian government in place, however, in May 2021 Colonel Goïta led a second coup and declared himself as President of Mali. United Press International reported that the Foreign Minister of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is strongly against the delay in elections and fears deeper political instability. He also stated that in order for the remaining French troops to maintain military structure in the region, the political state in Mali needs to be stabilized, “These efforts are not sustainable without political stability and without the respect for the democratic process.”

Since 2014 French troops have been deployed mostly in the north of Mali in a battle against jihadist groups, however, recently French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of military forces from Mali. While the President also announced that this is not a complete withdrawal of troops there will definitely be a reduction in military presence. French officials claim that in order for any long-term stabilization to occur in Mali, they must respect the timeline for elections set by the ECOWAS. In addition, many Malian officials have also criticized the delay, Secretary General of the Party of National Rebirth Djiguiba Keita, stated last week that the delay is a “ruse to cling to a power conquered in and by the street.”

Ultimately, Mali is suffering from a security and economic crisis, as a result of the growing political instability in the region. It has experienced almost a decade of violence, war-torn conditions and a steep decline in the economy worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Military leaders have pledged to hold democratic elections by February 2022 in order to achieve the stabilization of security, economy, and governance. However, the recent announcement of a potential delay in elections, could only bring more suffering to Malian nationals. With the recent second military coup in May earlier this year, many fear that the delay is simply a ploy by political leaders to deny citizens of their right to elections, and prolong their role in power. Therefore, the necessity to hold elections by February 2022 is growing. The leader of the Socialist Party of Mali has stated “we have the skills and expertise to hold elections in five months if the will is there.” ECOWAS has also stated that the issue stems from a lack of preparation for the elections, and not because Mali is unable to hold fair and just elections. Therefore, the matter of delay is not due to a threat of security. ECOWAS must condemn the recent suggestion to postpone elections, and monitor the preparation for the electoral process in the coming months, ensuring that concrete actions towards a democratic election are taking place. It is only through political stability can there be any advancement in Mali, therefore it is imperative that the international community denounce decisions to delay the elections, while ensuring the security of the elections is not compromised.