Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for early next year in Mali could be postponed by months, the prime minister told AFP on Sunday, stressing the need to ensure they are credible before going ahead.
"The main thing for us is less to hold them on February 27 than to hold elections that will not be contested," Choguel Kokalla Maiga said in an interview in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
He suggested they could be postponed by "two weeks, two months, a few months," adding that a decision will be taken in October following a meeting of a national forum.
"At the end we will issue a more detailed agenda," Maiga said.
"It is better to organize peaceful elections, recognized by all, rather than to organize elections that will be disputed," the prime minister added.
The elections, promised for February 2022 by strongman Colonel Assimi Goita, are aimed at restoring civilian rule following a coup in August last year against elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The military then appointed an interim civilian government tasked with steering back to democratic rule.
But Goita deposed the civilian leaders of the interim government in May -- in a second coup -- and was later declared president himself.
He has pledged to respect the February deadline for civilian elections set by the interim government, which also set October 31 as a date for holding a constitutional referendum.
Rampant insecurity in Mali, and the scale of the task, has cast doubt on the reform timetable, however.
The violence-torn country was already struggling with a bloody jihadist conflict before it slid into political turmoil.
Swathes of the vast nation lie outside of government control because of a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012, before spreading to the centre of the country, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.