President Mamadou Tandja named Aug 4 as the date for a referendum on extending his rule to three terms. He circumvented a ruling by Niger's hightest court against his plan by dissolving parliament on May 26 and assuming emergency powers to rule by decree. The Aug 4 referendum will be followed on Aug 20 by parliamentary elections and a presidential election on Nov 14. Without the extension, his term ends on Dec 22.
Tandja's plan to hold onto power has brought protests from Niger's opposition coalition of 231 political parties and non-governmental organisations that are hostile to a constitutional referendum. Named the Front for the Defence of Democracy, the coalition has called for mass resistance, including military disobedience. According to a Reuters report, the president says he needs the extra term to introduce a fully presidential system of government that will give the leader more power and end current blockages in governance. The landlocked former French colony of 15 million people, which stretches to the heart of the Sahara desert, hopes to become the world's second biggest producer of uranium. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Date written/update: 2009-08-04