January 22, 2014 / 4:54 PM / 5 years ago

Ally of Mali's President Keita elected parliament speaker

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Mali on Wednesday elected a little known politician with family ties to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to head the West African nation’s parliament.

Issiaka Sidibe, a 68-year-old retired customs inspector, secured 115 votes from a total 147 to claim the position, which would see him assume the presidency if Keita dies or is incapacitated while in office.

Sidibe served in parliament from 2002 to 2007 - a period during which Keita headed the legislative body - but he remains a relative unknown on Mali’s political scene. His daughter is married to the president’s son, Karim Keita, who is also a member of parliament.

Mali descended into chaos in March 2012 after soldiers deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure, creating a power vacuum that allowed al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters to seize the desert north.

France launched a military intervention against the Islamists a year ago, pushing them out of northern cities. Paris still has 2,800 troops stationed in Mali but aims to reduce its military presence to 1,000 by February as it hands security responsibilities to the Malian army and a U.N. force.

Reporting by Adama Diarra and Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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