Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja will bid to further strengthen his grip on the uranium-exporting West African country when it holds legislative elections tomorrow.
The vote, which many opposition politicians want the electorate to boycott, is expected to give Tandja, who has ruled since 1999, even greater control of Niger.
Tandja’s ruling party has said it hopes the vote helps to consolidate presidential power which is needed to oversee multibillion-dollar investment and infrastructure projects which could transform the desert state’s economy.
French state-owned energy firm Areva, which has been digging uranium in Niger for decades, is spending €1.2 billion on a new mine and China National Petroleum Corp signed a $5 billion deal there last June.
“Tandja must leave power on December 22,” said Bazoum Mohamed, spokesperson for opposition party the CFDR, referring to the date Tandja’s second and final term would have expired had August’s referendum not been held.
“These elections are not based on the constitution of 1999, and we reiterate our appeal to our supporters and the people of Niger as a whole for a massive boycott,” he said.
A referendum in August, denounced by the international community, eliminated many of the remaining checks on Tandja’s authority, abolished term limits, and gave him an extra three years in power without facing an election.
The country’s constitutional court declared that vote illegal, to which Tandja responded by abolishing the court and replacing its members with his own appointees.
“We must give the government the means of managing all the works in progress,” chief of the ruling MNSD party and former prime minister Seini Oumarou said last week, appealing for Niger’s 6 million voters to mobilise in favour of the MNSD.
Last week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on Tandja to delay the elections to allow the renewal of political dialogue in Niger, but after a delegation from the regional bloc met Tandja, there was no indication that he was prepared to undertake such a move.
ECOWAS has already said it could punish Niger by imposing sanctions if Tandja contravenes democratic principles.
Pic: President Mamadou Tandja of Niger