The early history of Mali was dominated by three west African Kingdoms; the Ghana or Wagadou Empire lasted from roughly 830 to 1235 A.D. It was replaced by the Mali or Mandingo Empire between 1230 and 1600 A.D. which in turn was replaced by the Songhay or Songhai Empire between 1340 and 1591 A.D.
After Songhai the region fragmented badly and there were a number of much smaller kingdoms before the French arrived and colonised the area in 1892 or thereabouts. The country became known as French Sudan and was part of the Federation of French West Africa.
In 1958 the country was renamed the Sudanese Republic and was granted internal autonomy. By 1959 the Sudanese Republic had joined with Senegal to form the Federation of Mali. The union didn’t last very long and in August 1960 Senegal withdrew from the Federation leaving the Sudanese Republic once more.
A month later, on 22nd September 1960 the Sudanese Republic became the independent state of Mali.
Mali’s first president was Modibo Keita. He quickly established a once party state espousing African Socialism through the Sudanese Union – African Democratic Rally (US-RDA).
The next few years were dominated by nationalisations and economic decline which in turn led to a bloodless coup on 19th November 1968 by the army. The Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN) was established and Lt Moussa Traoré became the new president.
In 1974 a new constitution was introduced, but in 1979 single party elections under the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM) were held. The now General, Moussa Traoré, was elected with 99% of the vote.
In 1988 the government attempted to introduce some competition into the elections by allowing multiple UDPM candidates to stand in each seat. It still resulted in a win for the UDPM, taking all 82 seats in the National Assembly.
By 1991 there was considerable unrest and new fledgling parties, although not permitted, were set up and protests by students and government workers resulted in a coup on 26th March, ousting Moussa Traoré.
The military joined with civilian groups to establish the Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (CTSP). In January 1992 a new constitution was introduced and between January and April that year multi-party elections were held for Presidential, National Assembly and municipal positions.
Alpha Oumar Konaré won the presidential election with 69% of the vote and his party, the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) took 76 of the 129 seats in the National Assembly.
Legislative elections in April 1997 were invalidated, but later that year ADEMA consolidated its position and won 128 of the now 147 seats in the National Assembly. Alpha Oumar Konaré also improved his position, taking 84.4% of the vote.
In 2002 Konaré stood down after completing his two terms in office and the presidential election was won by the Independent candidate Amadou Toumani Touré with 64.35% of the vote in the second round.
In the same year no one party won an overall majority in the National Assembly and Touré created an inclusive government.
Touré won again in 2007, taking 71.20% in the second runoff round. Although still standing as an Independent, he was supported this time by ADEMA. An alliance of twelve parties including ADEMA and called the Alliance for Democracy and Progress won the legislative elections.
In late 2011 large numbers of Toureg fighters were driven out of Libya and started an armed uprising in the north of the country. Although the government has pledged to go ahead with scheduled elections in 2012, the uprising may cause a delay.
The President is elected by popular vote for a five year term and may serve a maximum of two terms.
The Mali Parliament or National Assembly is a unicameral chamber with 160 members elected for a five year term. 147 members are elected in single seat constituencies and 13 members are elected by Malinese abroad.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Mali at joint 116th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 32 (where 10 is least corrupt).