Niger referendum aims to bring back ‘democracry’: minister


A constitutional referendum sought by Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja is aimed at “reestablishing full democracy”, government spokesman Mohamed ben Omar said Tuesday.

The Niger opposition and many international countries have condemned the moves by the 71-year-old former colonel to extend his stay in office.

But Omar, who is also communications minister, said Tandja wants to “reestablish full democracy…the people must chose, thank their leaders and also keep in power for long a president of the republic that meets their aspirations.”

Tandja has called for a new constitution that would allow “a renewable five-year-mandate, meaning a limitless tenure,” the minister told a meeting at the Congress palace in Niamey.

The current constitution restricts a sitting president to two five-year consecutive terms. In power for 10 years, Tandja, should stand down on December 22.

Tandja has dissolved the country’s parliament and constitutional court after they opposed his plan for a referendum on August 4. Legislative elections are scheduled for August 22.

The new constitution will put in place a presidential regime in which the head of state will be “the backbone of the executive power”, Omar said.

It will install a dual chamber parliament with 113 representatives and a senate of 60 members, said the minister.

In a recent broadcast, Tandja said the constitutional project would allow him to ensure a three-year transition during which no elections would be held. At the end of the transition, he could seek as many mandates as he wanted.

Opposition politician Hassoumi Massaoudou on Tuesday denounced the referendum move as “crazy” which his group, the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism, would not recognise.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the capital on Sunday to oppose the planned referendum.

The European Union, France and the United States have all condemned Tandja’s recent decisions.

Niger is poverty stricken and ranked among the world’s bottom countries on last year’s UN human development index.

AFP.com

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