By SIMPARA Mahamadou, Specialist in governance, peace and security issues in Africa, author and essayist in International Relations.
On Sunday, June 18, 2023, Mali witnessed a momentous political event that unfolded with great significance. Over 8 million Malian citizens were summoned to the 13,240 voting centers dispersed throughout the nation to determine the configuration and fundamental principles of the « Mali Kura » (New Mali). This event followed a series of unsuccessful attempts at constitutional revision, impeded or suppressed by popular uprisings. Nonetheless, the transitional authorities seem now achieved the audacious feat of securing the adoption of a new constitution. While the question of the authorities’ legitimacy to initiate this process remains a legitimate query, the crux of the matter resides in the far-reaching implications ensuing from the adoption of this Project of new constitution.
Amidst the binary narrative of the « YES » and « NO » factions prevailing throughout the pre-referendum campaign, it is of utmost importance to apprehend the momentous significance and enduring repercussions of this milestone. The significance of this referendum extends beyond the authorities’ mere endeavor to uphold their commitments to the international community or assess their popularity. Rather, it compels us to delve into the intricacies at stake.
From our vantage point, the core issues revolve around an array of questions that demand thorough analysis. Firstly, what are the ramifications arising from the amplification of presidential powers? The consolidation of authority in the hands of the presidency can have profound implications for the balance of power within the Malian political system. Secondly, what are the consequential implications associated with the establishment of a Senate? The creation of a Senate introduces a new dimension to the legislative framework and raises questions about its powers and potential impact on the political decision-making process.
Furthermore, it is crucial to examine how the Project of new constitution framework addresses the secular nature of the Republic. The religious and cultural diversity in Mali necessitates a careful consideration of how the text protects the rights and freedoms of all citizens while maintaining the secular character of the state. Additionally, the implementation of the Algiers Agreement, which holds significant importance for achieving stability and peace in Mali, requires an assessment of how the text will effectively realize the commitments made in this agreement.
Lastly, we must inquire into the parameters pertaining to the eligibility of the transitional president for future electoral candidacies. This issue holds implications for the democratic process and the potential consolidation or distribution of power in future elections.
By scrutinizing these multifaceted dimensions, we can unravel the profound ramifications of this constitutional referendum and gain a comprehensive understanding of the broader implications for the Malian political landscape. The adoption of a new critical in Mali marks a critical juncture in the nation’s political trajectory, and a meticulous analysis of its provisions and implications is essential to grasp the implications for governance, power dynamics, and the overall democratic development in the country.
The main changes introduced by the new text
The new constitution, if adopted in Mali, brings significant changes to the politico-institutional functioning of the country. One of the most notable changes concerns the political regime itself. Indeed, the semi-presidential system, in which the President of the Republic had to work with the parliament regarding the responsibility of the Prime Minister, is replaced by a presidential regime, in which the head of government is only accountable to the President of the Republic (Article 77).
In the practice of the 1992 Constitution, Article 54 established that « the Government is accountable to the National Assembly under the conditions and procedures provided for in Articles 78 and 79. » This constitutional amendment, therefore, entails a considerable expansion of presidential powers. Similarly, while Article 53 of the 1992 constitution stipulated that « the Government determines and implements the policies of the Nation and has control over the Administration and the Armed Forces, » the new project grants this prerogative exclusively to the President of the Republic, as stated in Article 44.
These constitutional revisions aim to consolidate and strengthen the role of the President as the central figure of the executive power. By shifting the responsibility of the Prime Minister from the parliament to the President, the presidential regime grants the latter increased political authority and a greater capacity to lead and shape national policy. This concentration of executive power in the hands of the President of the Republic can have significant implications for governance and decision-making in the country.
One major evolution of the institutional architecture lies in the establishment of a chamber of the High Council of the Nation, comparable to the Senate, which adds to the National Assembly composed of directly elected deputies. These two entities together form the Congress. According to the provisions of Article 97, the High Council of the Nation is composed of three-quarters of members elected through indirect universal suffrage, representing territorial communities, and one-quarter of designated members representing traditional authorities, Malians residing abroad, as well as individuals who have rendered remarkable services to the Nation. This new body thus promotes increased participation of local communities and adequately addresses some of the provisions necessary for the implementation of the Algiers Agreement.
Still, in terms of governance, transparency, and accountability, the new text provides for the establishment of a Court of Auditors. With effective operational power, the Court of Auditors assists the Government and the Parliament in controlling the execution of budget laws and evaluating public policies. Its role mainly consists of verifying the conformity of financial transactions, sanctioning management errors, as well as identifying and clarifying non-regulatory management acts. This measure undoubtedly constitutes a strong barrier in the fight against corruption, provided that this instrument can truly act effectively and efficiently without suffering from undesirable political influences.
Finally, another notable change deserving particular attention is the reconsideration of the role of traditional authorities. By attributing to them the title of « guardians of societal values, » they contribute to strengthening social cohesion and conflict management. This institutional recognition allows for better integration of sociocultural dynamics and traditional conflict resolution mechanisms within the broader framework of national governance.
Managing this double-edged reform as a springboard towards the achievement of « Mali-Kura »
This vote, described as « historic » by Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga after leaving the polling station, holds significant importance on multiple levels. Beyond the current political and security context prevailing in the country, as previously emphasized, this election brings about a significant change to Mali’s political and institutional framework. However, it is important to analyze whether this reform, beyond concerns regarding the legitimacy of authorities, contains detrimental elements that could compromise the much-desired restructuring sought by the Malian people.
The answer to this question hinges entirely on the actions that future leaders undertake regarding these reforms. The risks of a president with increased powers veering off course are inherent to their personality, just as the potential for a senate to ensure faithful representation depends on the existing political class. Thus, we return to the thorny question of the necessity to rebuild state institutions without a prior refoundation of Malian society itself.
It is crucial to highlight that the reconstruction of political institutions cannot be pursued in isolation; it must be accompanied by a profound transformation of Malian society as a whole. Political structures are a reflection of social dynamics and values that animate a country. Hence, without a refoundation of the Malian people, which involves a process of national reconciliation, strengthening the rule of law and democracy, as well as promoting citizen participation, political reforms risk being insufficient to achieve the set objectives.
In this regard, it is crucial for future Malian leaders to adopt a holistic approach to political refoundation. This entails not only reforming institutions and governance mechanisms but also promoting a political culture based on accountability, transparency, and citizen participation. Furthermore, it is paramount to establish checks and balances between different branches of power to prevent any excessive concentration of authority and potential abuses.
In short, although this vote is deemed « historic, » it is essential to bear in mind that political reforms are merely tools in service of a country’s refoundation. The true challenge lies in how these reforms will be implemented and integrated into an overarching process of social and political transformation. Only a comprehensive and balanced approach, grounded in solid foundations such as justice, equity, and citizen participation, will allow for the construction of a new political and institutional architecture that truly serves the Malian people.
In conclusion, Mali’s adoption of a new constitution through a momentous referendum signifies a critical juncture in the country’s political trajectory. This Project of new constitution provisions introduce significant changes to the politico-institutional functioning of Mali. The shift from a semi-presidential system to a presidential regime expands presidential powers, consolidating the authority of the President of the Republic. Additionally, the establishment of a Senate-like chamber, the High Council of the Nation, promotes increased participation of local communities and addresses provisions necessary for implementing the Algiers Agreement. The new text also emphasizes the importance of governance, transparency, and accountability through the creation of a Court of Auditors. Moreover, the recognition of traditional authorities as guardians of societal values contributes to social cohesion and conflict management.
However, while the constitutional reforms hold promise, their success ultimately depends on the actions of future leaders. It is crucial for Malian leaders to approach these reforms holistically, recognizing that the reconstruction of political institutions must be accompanied by a profound transformation of Malian society. This involves national reconciliation, strengthening the rule of law and democracy, and promoting citizen participation. Political reforms alone are insufficient without a prior refoundation of the Malian people. Future leaders should strive for a comprehensive and balanced approach that incorporates justice, equity, and citizen participation, while establishing checks and balances to prevent abuses of power. Ultimately, the true achievement of « Mali-Kura » lies in the effective implementation and integration of these reforms within a broader process of social and political transformation that serves the best interests of the Malian people.