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Mali junta expects delay to February elections

Mali’s military junta on Monday said it would postpone February elections for technical reasons, further pushing back a timeline for a return to democratic rule after two coups.

Mali had been expected to hold the first round of the vote on Feb. 4, 2024, and a second round two weeks later, which was already a two-year delay to a timetable originally agreed by the West African country’s interim authorities.

The junta’s statement said the delay would be small and was due to several factors including a dispute with a French firm over a civil registry database. It said it would give a new timeline at a later date.

It accused the French-based international tech company IDEMIA, which provided a civil identification system known as RAVEC to the former government, of holding its database “hostage” since March due to unpaid bills.

The situation makes it impossible to register newly eligible voters and update the voter registry, and is slowing down the roll out of a new biometric identity card, the junta said.

A spokesperson for IDEMIA said the company has no contract with Mali’s interim authorities and confirmed that its service had been shut down because of outstanding invoices.

The junta said it would migrate its current civil identification data to a new system “exclusively under Malian control.”

West Africa’s main political and economic body ECOWAS has not yet commented on the announcement.

The bloc has been leading tense negotiations with Mali and other coup-hit West African nations to restore democratic rule within acceptable timelines.

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