Brother-in-law to head Mali's new parliament

2014-01-22 20:00

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Bamako - A high-ranking ruling party lawmaker and relative of the president became Mali's second most powerful politician as he was elected Wednesday to lead the troubled west African nation's new parliament.

Issaka Sidibe, an executive in the Rally for Mali (RPM) party's politburo, was backed by 115 of the chamber's 147 lawmakers, with his only rival, opposition politician Oumar Mariko, picking up just 11 votes.

"Our people are watching us and ask of us honourable and dignified behaviour... We must serve the public interest and nothing else," Sidibe said.

He urged members to "work for the reconciliation" of all Malians, "regardless of their political, religious or ethnic allegiances".

The country, previously seen as a rare example of stability in a restive region, was upended by a coup in 2012 and had its northern half occupied by Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists before being liberated by a French-led military intervention.

The 68-year-old Sidibe will be accorded significant powers, becoming the country's de facto leader when President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is on holiday or unable to perform his duties for any other reason.

A career customs official, Sidibe gained a master's degree in law on the job and rose through the ranks to become a senior inspector before retiring five years ago to enter politics.

Father-in-law to the president's son, lawmaker Karim Keita, Sidibe represented his home town of Koulikoro, 59km northeast of Bamako, from 2002 to 2007 before losing his seat and then regaining it last year.

He has taken an active interest in sport through a period as president of the Mali Cycling Federation and as the manager of a football club in Bamako.

Tribalism

Sidibe's links with the First Family sparked criticism in the local press and on Malian websites soon after his election.

Le Combat, a privately-owned daily newspaper which came out after the vote, ran a story headlined "Tribalism for the presidency of the National Assembly".

One Twitter user proclaimed ironically: "On behalf of [the] father, father-in-law and son - amen!"

Another described the vote as "embarrassing", complaining that it "undermines the work of rehabilitating the elected officials".

The RPM and its allies won an outright majority in the single-chamber national assembly in December in an election touted as the completion of Mali's return to democracy.

After the election of the national assembly's president, it is normal for the prime minister to resign and put himself up for reappointment.

The process is expected to be a formality in the case of the incumbent, Oumar Tatam Ly, a source from the presidency told AFP, although there could be a significant reshuffle of the cabinet.

Read more on:    ibrahim boubacar keita  |  mali  |  west africa
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