Military officer elected head of Mali’s interim legislature

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Military officer elected head of Mali’s interim legislature

Mali’s interim legislature has elected Colonel Malick Diaw, a member of the military government that toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August, as its president.

The 121-seat body, known as the National Transition Council, was holding its inaugural session in the capital Bamako on Saturday. It is a key part of the post-coup interim government apparatus in Mali.

Army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled President Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests over the country’s armed rebellion, economic struggles and chronic interethnic violence.

Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before holding elections.

Figures with army links dominate the interim government, however, and anger over their prominent role is growing.

Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was elected interim vice president, for example, and retired army colonel Bah Ndaw was also elected interim president.

Members of the defence and security forces have 22 seats in the transition council, according to a government decree, while political parties, civil society groups and trade unions also have seats.

Elected unopposed

On Saturday, the council elected Diaw as its president unopposed, according to AFP news agency journalists, with 111 votes in his favour and seven abstentions. Three council members did not vote.

Diaw was second-in-command of the military government that took power after Keita’s overthrow. The military government has never been formally dissolved.

Last month, Goita was also given veto power over the appointments to the new legislature, in a move seen by critics of the interim regime as strengthening army control.

The opposition June 5 Movement, which led protests against Keita this year, said in a statement on Friday that it was boycotting the new legislature and that it would not serve as a “stooge for a disguised military regime”.

The coup was bloodless but triggered widespread alarm among Mali’s neighbours.

A coup in 2012 was followed by an uprising in northern Mali which morphed into an armed rebellion, claiming thousands of lives and threatening neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.