Mali’s ruling junta announced Friday a referendum on a new constitution would be held in the west African nation on June 18. Government spokesman colonel Abdoulaye Maiga read out a decree on state television saying the country was called upon “to decide on the Constitution project” in June, after missing a previous deadline of March 19. The new constitution is the first major step in plans the military has invoked to justify continuing to govern until 2024 following the overthrow of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020. Elections are due to be held in February 2024 to restore a civilian government in Bamako. “Voters will have to respond by a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the following question,” on the referendum, the spokesman said. “Do you approve of the draft constitution?” Members of the security forces in a nation wracked by insurgency will vote early on June 11. The draft would significantly strengthen the power of the president. It says the head of state, and not the government as before, “determines the policy of the nation”, appoints the prime minister and ministers and has the right to terminate their functions.