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Presidential election planned for volatile West Africa country

November 14, 2009 - NIGER

If President Mamadou Tandja succeeds in his bid to cling to power, he will be running for a third presidential term in the November election. His success rests on a Yes vote in a controversial constitutional referendum that would allow him the third term. Tandja dissolved parliament and announced on May 26 that he would rule by decree, a means of circumventing a court ruling against the referendum. Opposition parties and some former allies oppose the vote. They plan demonstrations.

President Mamadou Tandja succeeded in his bid to cling to power, and will be running for a third presidential term in the November election. A Yes vote in a controversial constitutional referendum allows him the third term. Tandja dissolved parliament and announced on May 26 that he would rule by decree, a means of circumventing a court ruling against the referendum. Opposition parties and some former allies oppose the vote. They plan demonstrations to underline their displeasure. One question is whether opposition coalition leader Mahamadou Issoufou and other presidential hopefuls will contest the election. Some 231 political parties and non-governmental organisations have registered hostility to Tandja's plan for the referendum, but Issoufou Tamboura of the ruling National Movement for a Society of Development, insists the vote will go ahead. The 71-year-old retired army colonel won the first and second of his five year terms in democratic elections in 1999 and 2004. He was due to step down on Dec 22. His bid to cling to power has alienated even allies, according to an AFP report. The main party backing him, the Democratic and Social Convention, announced in June that it was withdrawing its eight ministers from Niger's government in protest. A Reuters report on the Tandja takeover notes that 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. The only open international backing for the third term bid came from Libyan leader and current African Union head Moamer Kadhafi, who has been in power for four decades. "If the people decide the president deserves to be re-elected, they can choose him once, three times or even 10 times," he said at a recent regional summit that was reported by Reuters. The Reuters report notes that leaders in recent years who have succeeded in clinging to power through constitutional changes include Lansana Conte of Guinea, Zine El Abdine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad, Paul Biya of Cameroun and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria.

Niger opposition slams presidential 'coup' (AFP 27 Jun 2009)

Niger's president rules by decree after court snub (Reuters 26 Jun 2009)

Date written/update: 2009-11-14