As previously expected by Malian citizens and international organizations, general elections in Mali are to be held in February 2022, following the 18-month transitional period that originally was meant to usher in a democracy in the country. However, the new coup that derailed Mali’s transitional process has stirred up criticism against the current interim authorities, and questions as to whether the elections will be conducted on the stipulated date or not.

Mali was under an 18-month transitional period after a military coup on 18 August 2021. Another coup surfaced on 24 May 2021, 9 months after the previous coup. A military government emerged to complete a transitional process that will pave the way for general elections. Sanctions placed against Mali by international organizations are meant to be lifted when democracy is restored.

        Malian prime minister, Choguel Maiga

After taking over power in June 2021, the interim President, Colonel Assimi Goita, assured the conduct of a free and fair election within the timeline given. The Malian prime minister, Choguel Maiga stated that an independent electoral management body will be set up as demanded by the majority of the political class and civil society. A meeting organized by the Ministry of Reconciliation, Peace and National Cohesion on 26 September 2021, resulted in the creation of a single electoral management body: the Independent Election Management Authority (AIEG).

Although the transitional government was conscious about its commitment to fixing a deadline for conducting elections to restore democracy, some factors have raised doubt on the achievement of democracy in the country; the delay in publishing a detailed chronogram for general elections, and a wave of protest actions in support of the military-led government. These factors have aligned with the probable failure of the authorities in keeping their promises as expected by foreign partners and the political class.

In recent weeks, the extension of the transitional period has been a major debate in the country. There have been clashes of interest and division amongst citizens, as some are in favour of the extension, while others have opposed the motion. It is believed that the extension will allow addressing the security situation in the country, as well as other structural problems in the country.

The heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a meeting on Thursday, 16 September 2021, during which ECOWAS warned Malian authorities against any extension of the transition beyond the fixed 18-month. Moreover, this probable extension of the transitional period is also seen as a breach of the terms agreed in the Transition Charter freely consented to by the people following the consultations in September 2020. Many Malian political parties and groups united to oppose any attempt to extend the duration of the Transition.

Subsequently, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday, 7 November 2021, during a summit in Accra, Ghana imposed individual sanctions against members of the junta in power in Mali, due to the delay in the organization of the election. These sanctions include the travel ban and the freezing of their financial assets. However, sources indicate that Mali has officially written to the incumbent president of the ECOWAS to notify him that elections will not be held on the scheduled date. This has dashed hopes of the re-establishment of civilian power in due time.

ECOWAS has threatened to impose additional sanctions at a new meeting, which will be held on 12 December 2021, if the situation in Mali persists. The country remains in great turmoil as different voices are being heard. The situation may fuel a string of civil disobedience which will further worsen the country’s political state.