Mali soldiers cast ballots during early voting ahead constitution referendum

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Esha Saxena Mandala
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Members of Mali’s security forces have cast their ballots during early voting ahead of the new constitution referendum. The referendum slated for June 18 is a major milestone on the road to elections promised for February 2024. On Sunday, June 11 soldiers cast their ballot in Bamako in early voting.

“I’m very happy to be the first voter in my capacity as the regiment commander and I’m very proud to have fulfilled my civic duty. And I urge all my colleagues to come and vote.” says Lieutenant-colonel Mohamed Lamine Doumbia, regimental commander of the 34th regiment of military engineers.

The draft constitution strengthens the power of the president and under it the president rather than the government appoints the prime minister and ministers. The president also has the right to sack them as well as dissolve parliament. But there are sections of the draft that have already triggered controversy. A part that says Mali is an “independent, sovereign, unitary, indivisible, democratic, secular and social republic” has got Imams, a poweful religious class in the sahelian nation, contesting the principle of secularism.

Come June 18, “voters will have to respond by a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the question,” on the referendum, that government spokesman colonel Abdoulaye Maiga says will be, “Do you approve of the draft constitution?”

One of the members of the security force who voted Sunday said the vote had gone well. “Everything is going fine since the opening [of polling station], everything is in place, all the equipment is prepared. Everything is there for voting. We started at 8am and will continue until 6pm.” Chaka Sangaré, Commander of the French Air Force, Chairman of polling station N.1 said.

Constitutional change has long been debated in Mali. A referendum set for 2017 did not take place and this June 18 referendum will be the first national vote since 2020. The military currently enjoys strong popular support according to an opinion poll of 2,295 Malians by Germany’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung foundation in February.

More than nine out of 10 people said they were satisfied with the authorities. Three out of five declared that keeping to the deadline to restore civilian rule was not important.

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