Niger opposition renews call for election boycott

Opponents of Niger President Mamadou Tandja yesterday renewed their call to boycott this month’s parliamentary election, saying the leader intends to rig the process to ensure an assembly of his allies.
Tandja is already facing widespread criticism for changing the uranium-rich nation’s constitution in August to extend his term in office and give himself broader powers under a fully presidential government.
“This election is not only illegal but also and above all a charade, because he has already decided the names of the elected officials,” said Abdou Garba of the opposition umbrella group Coordination of Democratic Forces of the Republic.
The group said in a statement this week: “The CFDR does not in any way condone such elections and reiterates its call for a mass boycott of upcoming elections and demands the return to normal constitutional order.”
Tandja began campaigning for the Oct. 20 election last month, calling on voters to give his government the power to complete large-scale mining projects.
It was the same rationale the 71-year-old leader used for holding a referendum in August changing the constitution to give himself three more years in power without elections and shifting to a fully presidential system of government.
The extension of his authority has drawn protests in Niger and criticism from abroad on the grounds that it is undermining democracy, but the mining and energy firms spending billions of dollars in Niger have shown no sign of pulling back.
Tandja dissolved the national assembly in May, the only institution able to stop him from changing the constitution.
CFDR also demanded the release of people arrested in connection with the political crisis.
Earlier this week, police forces broke up a gathering of former opposition deputies in Niamey, calling the meeting illegal, according to a Reuter`s witness.

Pic: President Mamadou Tandja of Niger