Mali will hold a presidential election on July 28, according to a draft law adopted by the cabinet as the nation struggles to move on from war and an 18-month political crisis.
Mali’s government announced the elections on Monday in a communique that set out the dates for the campaign and runoff elections.
The announcement suggests that the West African country is serious about holding the ballot, despite the fact that the capital of one of the country’s northern provinces remains under the control of an anti-government group.
“The campaign will open on Sunday, July 7 at midnight and close at midnight on July 26,” the draft law read.
Acting President Dioncounda Traore has said that neither he nor his ministers will stand in the polls, which will go to a second round on August 11 if required.
The ballot would be the first since a coup in March 2012 that ousted Mali’s democratically elected president just months before he was due to step down at the end of his final term in office.
The coup created an opening that allowed groups allied with al-Qaeda to seize northern Mali.
France, which sent more than 4,000 troops to Mali in January to try to free the north and plans to reduce that number to 1,000 before the end of 2013, has been pushing for a quick election in the hopes of restoring the country’s constitutional rule.
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It is looking to hand over security to the Malian government and to a soon-to-be created United Nations peacekeeping force, which will number about 6,300.
French Mali envoy and former Foreign Minister Tiebile Drame, speaking in Burkina Faso, confirmed the dates of the elections.
He said there were high hopes that “we can move quickly towards the signing of an interim accord permitting the holding of the presidential election throughout the whole national territory of Mali”.
He was attending talks with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the regional mediator in the Mali crisis.
One of the Mali rebel delegates, also in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou for talks on the crisis, gave a guarded welcome to news of the election date.
Hamada Ag Bibi, head of the High Council for the unity of Azawad (HCUA) said his group would “not oppose” the holding of the poll which could usher in “a legitimate power”, a president who could then hold negotiations on the future of Azawad.