Mali: Electoral reform

Updated June 2020

In December 2009 the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, launched an initiative to amend the Constitution of 1992 so that it would be "more compatible with the current realities of the country" (Souaré & Handy 2010). Although greeted with skepticism, since constitutional engineering to increase the power and longevity of incumbency was rife in the West Africa region, when the expert committee tasked by the President produced its report, Political reforms' bill for the consolidation of democracy in Mali, it won acclaim from presidential critics (Souaré & Handy 2010). Thus, "the findings and recommendations of the committee not only didn't attempt to personify power in Mali but extended the systems of checks and balances of the country's polity" and initiated a reform process that was "widely consultative and thus consensual" (Souaré & Handy 2010).

The chief innovations included (Souaré & Handy 2010):

  • The institution of a Senate, a second parliamentary chamber, to improve oversight by the legislature over the executive; the Senate President would also function as head of state if the national presidency became vacant through incapacitation or death.
  • Removing criminal sanctions for media related offences to strengthen freedom of the press.
  • The "institutionalisation of the status of opposition", to ameliorate conflict generated by the winner-takes-all electoral system; the Leader of the Opposition would rank as a cabinet minister and would be consulted by the President on important matters of State.
  • Opportunistic floor-crossing in the National Assembly would be sanctioned to strengthen discipline within political parties and "force them to make alliances on the basis of political programmes and not only of personal power ambitions".

The outcome of the inclusive process was the adoption of the constitutional amendment bill by 141 votes to 3 with one abstention in early August 2011 and a referendum was scheduled to take place on the same day as the next presidential election on 29 April 2012 (Elgie 2011a, 2011b). These plans did not materialize, however, for the President was overthrown by a military coup on 22 March 2013, the Constitution of 1992 was suspended and the election and referendum were cancelled (Freedom House 2013).


ELGIE, R 2011a "Mali - Constitutional reform approved by National Assembly", 8 August, (accessed 30 Jun 2020).

ELGIE, R 2011b "Mali - Date set for constitutional reform referendum, 7 November, (accessed 30 Jun 2020).

FREEDOM HOUSE 2013 "Mali" IN Freedom in the World 2013, (offline 30 Jun 2020).

SOUARÉ, IK, & HANDY, P-S 2010 "Mali: A Model for Constitutional Reform in Africa" African Conflict Prevention Programme, Institute for Security Studies, [www] (accessed 30 Jun 2020).