Top Mali court orders changes to controversial referendum
Bamako (AFP) - Mali's constitutional court Wednesday dealt another blow to embattled President Ibrahima Boubacar Keita over a controversial referendum, saying changes his government wants to make to the national charter require "corrections".
A referendum on Mali's national charter was due on July 9 but was postponed indefinitely in the face of internal opposition in government and following protests by thousands of Malians.
The project is controversial as it would establish a Senate with a third of the seats appointed by Keita himself, leading critics to accuse him of consolidating his own power.
In a decision issued Wednesday, the court noted that senators had a clear mandate of five years, except for those appointed by the president, whose terms were not specified. "There is room to correct this omission," it stated.
However the court sided with Keita over the most controversial aspect of the referendum -- that the vote cannot be held democratically given the state of security in the country's north.
The court stated that given there were no "foreign troops occupying Malian territory," this argument was void.
A separatist rebellion in Mali's north was hijacked by jihadists in 2012, throwing the nation into chaos as they took over key northern cities.
A peace deal signed in 2015 was aimed at curbing separatist uprisings but Mali's jihadists did not sign and have continued to wreak havoc despite an ongoing French-led military intervention to remove them.
Meanwhile former rebels still control the city of Kidal, and the state remains absent in large swathes of Mali's north.
Keita has attacked those who accuse him of seeking greater power by saying critics want to derail the nation's fragile peace process, given that the referendum would enshrine certain parts of the 2015 accord into the constitution.
The draft text will now be sent back to parliament for a second reading following the constitutional court's decision.
No new date has been set for the referendum.