Mali’s parliament backs plan to boost president’s powers

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Mali’s parliament has backed constitutional changes giving the president greater powers ahead of an election next year in which the present incumbent, Amadou Toumani Toure, has vowed not to run.

The landlocked West African gold and cotton producer has seen relative stability through Toure’s two five-year terms, which will remain the maximum allowed under a revised constitution backed by a late-night vote on Tuesday.

The reforms will however mean it is the president rather than the prime minister who sets government policy, and will have the right to sack the prime minister, Reuters reports.
“The outgoing president has declared loud and clear that he will no longer be president from June 8 (2012) and I do not think anyone can suspect him of leading this reform for his own benefit,” said parliament speaker Dioncounda Toure, himself one of a handful of expected 2012 presidential candidates.

The reform, which will be put to a referendum at the end of this year, will also provide Mali with a two-chamber parliament similar to those in Western democracies.

The current national assembly will become the lower house, while an existing council of municipalities will become the Senate, or upper house.

Ex-army general Toure overthrew military leader Moussa Traore in 1991 and handed power back to civilians a year later. He won the 2002 election to secure the first of two terms.

Soaring world market prices for gold lifted revenues in Africa’s third biggest producer of the metal to a record 191 billion CFA francs ($414 million) in 2010.

However Mali is predicting a possible fall in output from 2014 and is looking to diversify into other areas such as oil and uranium.