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Electoral commission boss quits ahead of controversial referendum

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-07

The deputy head of Niger's Independent Electoral Commission and representative of the Bar Association has resigned as Niger braced for a controversial referendum in which President Mamadou Tandja (pictured) is seeking to stay in power.

AFP - Aissatou Zada, deputy head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and representative of the Bar Association, resigned on Monday, local radios reported as Niger braced for a controversial referendum in which President Mamadou Tandja is seeking to stay in power.
  
On June 17 the Bar Association had called on Tandja to show "wisdom" and accept a Constitutional Court decision that annuled his planned referendum on a new constitution that could keep him in power.
  
The president replied by dissolving the nation's highest court and naming new members, some of whom came out in favour of his referendum.
  
Zada was the second member of the electoral body to resign following activist Marou Amadou who represented human rights organisations.
  
After initially declining to organise the referendum out of respect for the Constitutional Court's decision, the IEC finally decided to go ahead, according to one of its members who asked not to be named.
  
Electoral rolls, voting cards and copies of a draft constitution that has aroused mass protests were sent out to the sub-Saharan country's western Tahoua and southeastern Diffa regions on Monday, according to Voix du Sahel radio.
  
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the capital Niamey on Sunday to decry Tandja's planned referendum, which would allow him to run for a third five-year term in office.
  
Tandja, a 71-year-old retired army colonel, has dissolved the country's parliament as well as the Constitutional Court after they opposed his plan to hold the referendum.
  
According to the constitution, Tandja should step down on December 22 after two terms and 10 years in charge of the country.
  
But the new constitution he wants to introduce would prolong his mandate by three years, during which time no elections would be held.
  
Niger's most important international partners, including the European Union, France and the United States, have condemned Tandja's recent decisions.
  
Meanwhile the Collective of Organisations for Defence of Human Rights and Democracy, which groups the main non-governmental organisations in the country, called on all its militants to withdraw their members from the IEC "to denounce the lawless regime in Niger."
  

Date created : 2009-07-07

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