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Tandja's referendum: people's choice or coup d'état?

Video by Melissa BELL , Eric JOSSET

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-08-14

President Mamadou Tandja has ruled Niger for ten years, and to make sure he stays in power, he organised and won a referendum on a new constitution that allows him to continue to run for the presidency.

President Mamadou Tandja of Niger was due to step down in December due to constitutional term limits, but he organized a much-criticised referendum in August to extend his rule for another three years and to allow him unlimited runs for the presidency.

The poll drew wide criticism both in the country and abroad as a backward step for democracy and a threat to stability in a country which is the scene of al Qaeda activity and a Tuareg insurgency. The opposition accused Tandja of violating the constitution and tampering with the vote.

Falké Bacharou, a former vice president of Niger's Parliament, told FRANCE 24 that even before the referendum, the harm had already been done.

"There's been a coup d'état," said Bacharou, "of which the institutions have been the victims. A coup d'état that may not have been military, but that took place nonetheless. That's for sure. But the people of Niger are going to fight. We can't accept that it's the end of democracy. It's just not possible."

Tandja won the controversial referendum with 92.5 percent of the vote. Tandja argued that the people of Niger want him to stay to oversee multibillion-dollar oil, mining and infrastructure deals which could transform the impoverished country's economy.

Date created : 2009-08-14