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Monday, August 3, 2009

Niger's President Attempts to Change Constitution

In May President Mamadou Tandja of Niger began plans for a referendum over a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for a third presidential term in the November 2009 elections. Many Nigeriens were shocked, saying he "swore on the Koran" to step down in December this year.

Now members of the Niger's military are making an advance vote, ahead of tomorrow's controversial national referendum on President Mamadou Tandja's attempt to change the constitution to enable him run a third term.

Tuesday will be the day for the referendum, which could change Niger’s constitution, abolishing terms of services for the president. Opposition parties have widely described the move as an insult to democracy.

Mr Tandja was due to leave office in December this year, but has somersaulted dissolving parliament and ignoring the ruling by the highest court of the country in his bid to run for the third term.

He has defended his move saying the people want to him to stay in office.

The bid has seen a series of protests, with the opposition parties calling on their supporters to boycott the referendum.

The 71 years old Mr Tandja was first elected in 1999 and has stayed in power for his full two terms.

His move has also received a blanket international condemnation, but on Friday, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urged the people of Niger to refrain from violence and exercise the utmost restraint.

Mr Ban “reiterates his support for an inclusive process to resolve the current crisis peacefully and in conformity with the country's democratic values,” a statement issued by his spokesperson read.

Mr Ban also said he was concerned that the referendum was taking place, “despite sharp differences among the country's political stakeholders,” and he urged all sides in the impoverished West African country to show restraint. “The United Nations stands ready to support initiatives that would help resolve the current situation in a peaceful and sustainable manner,” he added.

From here.

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