President risks sanctions to forge ahead with legislative poll
President Mamadou Tandja (pictured) ignored the risk of sanctions to go ahead with legislative elections on Tuesday despite international calls to delay the vote over an opposition boycott.
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President Mamadou Tandja ignored the risk of sanctions to go ahead with legislative elections on Tuesday despite international calls to delay the vote over an opposition boycott.
Turnout was reportedly low early in the first half of the day after voting began. Polls are scheduled to close at 8 pm (GMT+2) and preliminary results are expected in the next three to five days.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was swift to react to the vote, suspending Niger’s membership soon after polling went ahead.
ECOWAS leaders convened at an emergency summit on Saturday had warned Tandja to delay the vote or risk having full sanctions imposed on his country. Tandja’s failure to comply “would lead to the automatic and immediate imposition of full sanctions”, the bloc said.
The African Union and the European Union, a major Niger donor, had joined ECOWAS in calling for a delay to the vote, which is aimed at filling 113 parliamentary seats, to allow for a resumption of dialogue between Tandja and the opposition.
A ‘coup d’état’
Ignoring the warnings, former army colonel Tandja cast his vote early on Tuesday, saying he hoped for a “fair and transparent” vote.
The Nigerian opposition called for a boycott of Tuesday’s poll to protest Tandja’s extension of his mandate past its initial December 22 expiration to 2012 in a controversial referendum last August that also allowed him to stand for election indefinitely.
The opposition condemned the August 4 referendum as a “coup d'état”.
Tandja, 71, dissolved the country’s parliament in May and its constitutional court in June for opposing the referendum and later declared a state of emergency, a move that allowed him to rule by decree.
His actions led to street protests and strikes in the capital, Niamey, and elsewhere in the country.
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