BAMAKO (AFP) – Mali's new government on Wednesday set November 24 as the date for the first parliamentary elections since a military coup last year which led to a sweeping Islamist occupation and a French-led military intervention.
The announcement comes two weeks after Mali's first post-war president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appointed Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly to lead the west African nation's return to stability after 18 months of political chaos.
"Under the terms of the plan, the electoral college is called for Sunday, November 24, 2013, throughout the national territory and a second round of voting will take place Sunday, December 15, 2013 in constituencies where no candidate has obtained an absolute majority of votes cast in the first round," the minutes of a cabinet meeting published by the government said.
Ly offered the dates on Monday to the leaders of 15 political parties represented in parliament but the announcement has angered some groups who said they had not been given enough time to consider the proposal.
The United Front for Safeguarding Democracy and Republic (FDR), a grouping of 40 parties and around 100 civil society groups, said it was demanding a "consultation with the Malian political class" before agreeing to cooperate with the polls.
"Lessons from the presidential elections must be learnt and our grievances must be taken into account before credible elections can happen," FDR senior official Djiguiba Keita told AFP.
FDR vice-president Youssouf Traore said in a newspaper column on Tuesday he was "astonished" that the government was ignoring an agreement among Mali's political parties to delay the polls until an exhaustive assessment of the presidential election had been carried out.
Ly formed Mali's first post-war cabinet after Keita won a landslide victory in August elections focused on law, order and ending the culture of impunity in public office.
The first presidential polls since 2007 were seen as crucial for unlocking more than $4 billion in aid promised by international donors who halted contributions in the wake of the coup.
Army officers angry at the level of support they had received to combat a separatist Tuareg rebellion in Mali's vast desert north overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, 2012.
In the chaos that followed, the Tuareg seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by Al-Qaeda-linked groups who imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.
Their actions drew worldwide condemnation and prompted France to launch a military offensive at Mali's behest to oust the Islamists in January.
Mali is due to stage a ceremony in Bamako on Thursday to mark the beginning of Keita's term of office with heads of state from across Africa invited as well as France's President Francois Hollande.