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Early vote results a 'yes' on ending term limits

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-08-05

FRANCE 24's special correspondent in Niger, Melissa Bell, says early results from Tuesday's vote on amending the constitution indicate that President Mamadou Tandja has likely won his bid to repeal term limits and stand for re-election indefinitely.

Election officials in Niger have began counting the ballots from a controversial constitutional referendum that, if passed, would repeal term limits to allow President Mamadou Tandja to remain in power, despite vocal protests from the political opposition and abroad.

Early partial results released Wednesday from just 1 percent of the nation’s polling stations indicate that Tandja may have secured his bid to stay in power past the Dec. 22 expiration of his current term until 2012, and then stand for re-election indefinitely.

The head of the independent electoral agency, Moumouni Hamidou, said voter turnout for Tuesday’s vote ranged between 40 percent in urban areas and peaks of 90 percent in some rural areas.

But the opposition said the turnout figures were unrealistic.


“It's ridiculous, participation did not even reach 7 percent,” said Marou Amadou, a member of the Forces for the Defence of Democracy, the coalition that opposed the amendment, in an interview with AFP.


Early results from 200 of the 19,000 polling stations and released by state media indicate that Tandja has won public approval of the amendment.


Tandja, 71, dissolved both the country’s parliament and its constitutional court in June for opposing the referendum. He subsequently declared a state of emergency, a move that has allowed him to assume emergency powers and rule by decree. 


His actions led to street protests and strikes in Niamey and elsewhere, and the opposition urged a massive boycott of the referendum.


It seems “almost beyond doubt” that Tandja will get the constitutional change he is looking for, says FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Niamey, Melissa Bell.


But she says determining whether the vote was free and fair is going to prove a challenge. “It’s going to be very difficult to know where the truth lies, because – unusually – there have been no international monitors,” Bell says.


In the end, Niger may end up with two very different stories, Bell says, with the official figures on one hand and the opposition’s claims of massive abstentions on the other.


Opposition activists and security forces clashed during Tuesday’s voting, with police firing teargas to disperse protesters who tried to block access to polling stations.



Date created : 2009-08-05