World News

Contested Mali lawmakers will not step down, says representative

BAMAKO (Reuters) - A group of lawmakers in Mali will not resign as recommended by West Africa’s regional body, a representative said on Wednesday, dealing a further blow to efforts to find a peaceful resolution to Mali’s months-long political crisis.

On Monday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suggested 31 members of parliament whose elections were contested step down, among a number of proposals intended to appease an opposition coalition that has held large-scale protests calling for the president’s resignation.

The M5-RFP coalition has already rejected the ECOWAS plan, but the lawmakers’ apparent refusal to comply is likely a further setback.

“We decided not to resign because we believe the ECOWAS decision violates the constitution,” MP Gouagnon Coulibaly told Reuters by phone, saying he represented the group.

One of the sources of protesters’ anger is a decision by the constitutional court to overturn 31 of the results of a legislative election in March, which gave President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party 10 more parliamentary seats and make it the largest bloc.

At least 14 protesters were killed earlier this month in demonstrations that have shaken the government since June and raised fears the instability could derail the fight against Islamist extremists in West Africa’s Sahel region.

The coalition has said it will restart protests on Aug. 3 if their demands are not met.

The number of MPs in contested seats is 30 not 31, according to lawmaker Coulibaly.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Dan Grebler