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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 19:54 GMT 20:54 UK
Mali's president faces tough challenge
President Konare
President Konare was close to Boubakar Keita
Said Penda in Bamako

A former Malian prime minister has launched a new political party representing the stiffest challenge yet to President Alpha Oumar Konare in next year's elections.

Boubakar Keita's new party, the Rally for Mali, is the 74th to register, and has caused a split in the ruling Adema party, of which Mr Keita was a member.

Twenty thousand people attended the launch of Mr Keita's party. Such was the state of excitement that Mr Keita's bodyguards found it almost impossible to clear a path through the crowd for him to make his way to the podium.

Mr Keita will doubtless be one of the most formidable presidential candidates in Mali's elections, due in eight months time.

Parliamentary support

The Rally for Mali is now the second most powerful party in the National Assembly, with about 30 parliamentary deputies leaving Adema to join the new party.

The support for Mr Keita's party comes almost exclusively from disaffected members of Adema. This is partly because his sphere of influence remains with the ruling party, given that he was so close to President Konare for so long.

It is thought that the alliance between the two men crumbled after Mr Keita refused to support the president in his quest for a third term.

Although Mr Konare has always denied that he wants to stand for a third term, there have been reports that he would like to, despite that fact that the constitution forbids it.

Mr Keita has few friends in the opposition because he is seen as the man behind the violent repression of political demonstrations after the controversial 1997 elections.

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See also:

19 Oct 99 | Africa
Albright praises Malian democracy
16 Feb 00 | Africa
Economist named as new Mali PM
22 Nov 00 | Africa
Mali's monumental folly?
09 May 01 | Africa
Timeline: Mali
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Mali
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