Mali’s president suspends plan to change Constitution

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. (AFP)
Updated 19 August 2017
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Mali’s president suspends plan to change Constitution

BAMAKO: Mali’s president has suspended plans for a referendum on constitutional change, a move cheered by the opposition Saturday after months of street protests against the reforms.
“In the higher interests of the nation and to preserve a peaceful social climate, I have taken the responsibility of deciding to suspend the holding of a referendum on revising the Constitution,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on television Friday evening.
The proposed reforms, the first constitutional revision in 25 years, aim to put in place some commitments made in a 2015 peace accord between the government and former rebel groups in the north of the country.
They also call for creating a Senate, with a third of the seats appointed by Keita himself — a plan that critics said aimed at consolidating his own power.
The opposition and its supporters took to the streets of the capital Bamako Saturday in jubilation.
“We are here to celebrate a victory, the withdrawal of the referendum plan,” Amadou Thiam, deputy head of a campaign group called “Don’t Touch my Constitution,” told a crowd of several thousand.
The Malian government had initially scheduled to hold the referendum on July 9 2017. But on June 21, in the face of mounting criticism, it announced the ballot would be postponed indefinitely.
On July 5, the opposition won a partial victory in the Constitutional Court, which agreed that the duration of the term of senators designated by the president had to be specified.
But it rejected the opposition’s request to cancel the referendum itself.
Keita admitted in his televised address that with the current atmosphere in the country his attempts to persuade voters of the benefits of the change “would hardly be heard or accepted.”
Government forces are still struggling in northern Mali with remnants of the militant groups who in 2012 hijacked a rebellion led by Tuareg separatists to take over key cities.
They were removed from their strongholds by a French-led intervention in early 2013, but remain active in the area despite the peace deal.


Putin says will step down as president after term expires in 2024

Updated 57 min 37 sec ago
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Putin says will step down as president after term expires in 2024

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin said on Friday he would respect the Russian constitution which bans anyone from serving two consecutive presidential terms, meaning he will step down from his post in 2024 when his current term expires.
His remarks, made to reporters at an economic forum in St. Petersburg and broadcast on state TV, are not a surprise and do not necessarily mean he will relinquish power in six years.
Putin has stepped down as president once before, in 2008, after serving two back-to-back terms only to return in 2012 after doing a stint as prime minister, a maneuver he would be legally entitled to carry out again.
“I have always strictly abided by and abide by the constitution of the Russian Federation,” Putin said, when asked if and when he would be leaving office.
“In the constitution it’s clearly written that nobody can serve more than two terms in a row ... I intend to abide by this rule.”
Putin easily won re-election in March, extending his tenure by six years to 24 — which would make him Moscow’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.