Niger's military junta, which seized power in a coup this week, announced plans for upcoming elections on Saturday, but did not specify a date. A spokesperson for the junta also said that all of deposed president Tandja's ministers have been freed.
AFP - Niger's new military leaders promised to hold elections, but failed to name a date, as thousands rallied in support of the coup that ousted the strongman of the uranium-rich west African nation.
"Our intention is to stabilise the political situation... We plan to organise elections but first we have to stabilise the situation," Colonel Djibrilla Hamidou Hima, one of the junta leaders told journalists in Mali.
Niger's opposition and the international community have pressed the junta which overthrew President Mamadou Tandja two days ago, to organise elections and return the country to civilian rule as soon as possible.
Speaking in Bamako, Hima said the election date "will be announced at the right moment... It has been hardly 48 hours."
"We want to rally the people and create conditions" for an election, he added.
He said he had "explained" the reasons for the coup to the region's leaders gathered in the Malian capital for a summit, claiming: "They have understood us."
Niger's opposition also called for polls at a mass rally in the capital Niamey as they threw their weight behind Tandja's ouster on Thursday.
Supporters crammed into buses, cars, took lifts on motorbikes or simply walked to gather in front of parliament for a demonstration called by the opposition alliance, Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic.
"We urge the soldiers to be fair and organise free and democratic elections and then withdraw," Doudou Rahama, an aide to the head of the dissolved parliament, told the 10,000-strong crowd.
Captain Harouna Djibrilla Adamou, one of the junta leaders, vowed never to "let down" the people.
"What we did was in the best interest of Niger.... We ask you to stay calm, we're here for you, we're listening and we assure you that we will never let you down," he told the rally.
"The Sixth Republic is dead, it came through the back door and has gone out in shame," Mohamed Bazoum, vice president of the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) said.
The alliance behind Saturday's rally groups opposition parties, human rights organisations and trade unions that had in recent months fiercely opposed Tandja's refusal to step down after his mandate expired in December.
Many people were seen shaking the hands of soldiers guarding the rally venue. Pro-junta rallies took place elsewhere in the country as another was planned for the second largest city of Zinder on Sunday.
The 15-nation Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) also pressed for credible elections during a meeting with the junta leader.
"We want a transition... to be driven by credible, transparent elections open to all," the bloc's outgoing president Mohammed Ibn Chambas said after the talks late Friday.
Soldiers stormed the presidential palace on Thursday as the 71-year-old Tandja chaired a cabinet meeting. They seized the president, took him to a military camp and detained his ministers.
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi Saturday sent an envoy asking for guarantees that Tandja and his family not be harmed.
Niger's new rulers, who call themselves the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), have suspended the constitution that Tandja forced through in a contested August referendum and dissolved his government.
Tandja had changed the constitution last year to hold on to his post beyond a 10-year-limit, tightening his grip on power in a move that infuriated democratic forces and widened the chasm between him and the opposition.
The coup has been widely condemned abroad including by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the African Union.
The United States called for a "speedy return to democracy" and former colonial ruler France demanded fresh elections "in the coming months" as the European Union also denounced the coup.
Libya has also offered help for a "speedy" return to democracy.
Date created : 2010-02-20