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Rule of LawMali

Mali voters approve changes to constitution in referendum

June 23, 2023

The amendments are expected to facilitate a transition to civilian leadership in the junta-ruled West African country. Observers voiced concerns over last week's referendum, saying the vote was marred by irregularities.

A voter casts his ballot as polls open in Mali's referendum in Bamako on June 18, 2023
Mali held the constitutional referendum on June 18, with opponents of the reforms and election observers saying there were irregularities during votingImage: Ousmane Makaveli/AFP/Getty Images

Citizens of the West African nation of Mali have overwhelmingly approved changes to the constitution, the country's election body said Friday.

The changes were passed in a referendum, with 97% of those who cast their ballots approving the new constitution, according to Mali's electoral authority.

Voter turnout for the referendum, which was held last Sunday, was 39.4% according to election officials.

What will the constitutional changes do?

The amendments are believed to facilitate the country's transition to civilian leadership, with the nation currently ruled by a military junta. Elections are anticipated to take place in February 2024.

Opponents say the changes will enable the military to stay in power beyond elections next year. The amendments will expand the role of the president and the military.

Mali elections: Journalist Mamadou Tapily in Bamako

Local observers expressed concerns regarding the June 18 referendum, reporting that the vote was marred by irregularities.

What is the impact of the referendum?

Despite criticism of the constitutional changes themselves, the United Nations and regional bodies view the junta's decision to hold the referendum as an important test for the junta.

International and regional bodies were concerned about the junta following through on holding a referendum and sticking to a transition process to a civilian government — particularly at a time of increased extremist attacks in areas of Mali. 

Residents of regions in northern Mali which are controlled by jihadi groups such as al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" had difficulties participating in the vote.

wd/rs (Reuters, AFP)