Turnout 38 percent for Mali constitution voteWed, 21 Jun 2023 14:40:29 GMT

Around 38 percent of Malian voters took part in a referendum on a new constitution drawn up by the ruling junta, officials said Wednesday.The turnout was announced by the head of the electoral authority, Moustapha Cisse, who said ballots in nearly all polling stations had now been counted.Sunday’s referendum was a delayed step towards a return to civilian rule in the insurgency-wracked West African nation.It had been scheduled for March but was postponed as the impoverished Sahel state battled jihadist insurgents.”More than 24,000 polling stations out of a total of 24,416 have been counted. At this stage in the centralising of results domestically and from abroad, the participation rate is 38 percent,” Cisse said, reading out a statement to reporters.He gave no indication of whether voters had backed the changes to the constitution or not.The West African nation has been under military rule since an August 2020 coup.Strongman leader Colonel Assimi Goita, 40, has vowed to return the country to civilian government in 2024.Final results will be announced by Friday, the legally required deadline, Cisse said.Some 8.4 million citizens were eligible to vote on the new text, which has fuelled speculation that Goita will seek election.Insecurity or political disagreement prevented voting in some central and northern areas.The new constitution will strengthen the role of the president, who will have the right to hire and fire the prime minister and cabinet members.The government will answer to the president, and not to parliament as the current 1992 consitution states.However, the proposed reform has drawn vocal opposition, from former rebels and imams as well as political opponents.Observers say a “yes” vote is almost certain.