Mali’s transitional government said on Friday it would delay a constitutional referendum that had been set to take place this month, the first in a series of scheduled polls meant to restore democracy after a military takeover in 2020.
The junta running the West African country pledged to hold presidential elections in February 2024 following pressure from regional powers to lay out an acceptable democratic transition timeline.
The March 19 referendum on a new constitution has been seen as an indicator of the junta’s commitment to organising polls on time, along with a new electoral law passed in June.
But the authorities on Friday said the referendum would be “lightly” delayed.
In a statement, they said they needed more time to get the electoral management authority up and running in all of the country’s 19 administrative regions.
There was no mention of a new referendum date.
“The government reassures national and international opinion that the return to constitutional order… remains one of its top priorities,” the statement said.
The region’s main economic and political bloc ECOWAS imposed stiff sanctions on Mali in January 2022, after the transitional authorities strayed from a previously agreed electoral calendar.
After months of back and forth with Mali’s military rulers, ECOWAS accepted a new 24-month transition that was to begin in March 2022. It lifted sanctions in July but kept Mali suspended from the bloc.
ECOWAS has not yet commented on the latest delay.
Mali has been rocked by two coups since August 2020, spurred in part by frustration over the failure of authorities to block a violent Islamist insurgency that has spread through West Africa over the past decade.
Military rulers have previously blamed election delays on insecurity, saying it made it difficult to organise polls.