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Cablegate: Niger: Parliament Plays with Pm Censure Motion

VZCZCXRO8716
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0737/01 1491310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291310Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3525
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0537

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000737

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR AF/W; PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KCOR NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: PARLIAMENT PLAYS WITH PM CENSURE MOTION

REF: 06 NIAMEY 847

-------
SUMMARY
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1. (U) On Saturday the 26th, the opposition in Niger's
National Assembly raised a censure motion against the
coalition government of Prime Minister (PM) Hama Amadou,
alleging negligence in its management of the investigation of
a public school funds scandal rumored to implicate the PM
(reftel). A vote of censure is equivalent to a vote of
no-confidence and would force the resignation of the PM and
all GON ministers if passed. While this is the fourth time
since 2000 that the opposition has moved a no-confidence
motion, this one seems to be serious. Interestingly, both the
President of Niger and the President of the National Assembly
were out of the country on previously scheduled travel when
the opposition made its current move. Neither has returned as
of this writing. Ruling MNSD party deputies tried a series of
delaying tactics during debate on May 28, suggesting a need
for breathing space for vote counting and strategizing. The
absence of National Assembly President Mahamane Ousmane (in
Nigeria for an ECOWAS parliamentarians, meeting) left
procedures in the hands of the National Assembly's First Vice
President, MNSD Deputy Issaka Hassan Djegoule, whose obvious
partisanship added another layer of theatricality to the
day's drama. While initially scheduled to re-open at 10h00 on
May 29, debate has yet to re-open. While parliamentary
maneuvering has not yet saved the day for PM Amadou,
political calculus might. The ruling coalition's member
parties may not be willing to take a step that would endanger
the ministerial berths they now control. END SUMMARY

------------------------------
DELAYING TACTICS SUGGEST MNSD
DISQUIETUDE
------------------------------

2. (U) On May 26, thirteen opposition Deputies offered a
written motion of censure against the government. (Ten
percent of the 113 member chamber's deputies must endorse a
motion to get it on the calendar.) The motion was received
and debate was officially scheduled for May 28. The PM's
party, MNSD, began a series of parliamentary maneuvers on May
28, designed to derail debate on the motion. First, MNSD
Deputies questioned the admissibility of the motion. Also,
MNSD Deputy and acting National Assembly President (speaker)
Issaka Hassan Djegoule asserted the right to seek legal
counsel on the matter, and asked GON Minister of Justice and
renowned Hama Amadou loyalist Maty Elhadj Moussa to take the
podium and render a judgment. The obvious partisanship seems
to have offended everyone. Amidst calls of "anyone but Maty"
from opposition and ruling coalition Deputies alike, PM
Amadou called his friend back down. The advice of the
Assembly's own non-partisan parliamentarians was then sought,
as it would be throughout the day. The Assembly Secretary
General (SG) and Director of Legislation ruled that the
motion had been properly moved and debate properly scheduled.
Debate could go forward.

3. (U) MNSD members next asked if Deputies who serve as
judges on the High Court of Justice (a National Assembly
court that is responsible for investigating charges against
ministers and Deputies and is currently investigating the
school funding scandal) could take part in the debate.
Parliamentarians ruled that they could. Twenty-seven MNSD
Deputies then stated that they had no confidence in the
parliamentarians' rulings and sought the advice of the
Constitutional Court. They also requested a ruling suspending
proceedings until the Constitutional Court was able to
advise. Parliamentarians ruled that a request for advice
rather than a ruling did not constitute grounds for a
suspension and had no impact on the debate or motion. The
MNSD Deputies then moved to discuss only preliminary
questions, not the motion itself; again, the parliamentarians
ruled that the motion had been properly submitted and must be
debated and voted upon. In each case, the opposition cited
and the parliamentarians agreed with Article 119 of the
National Assembly by-laws. After employing this succession of
delaying tactics, the MNSD's moved to new ground -- that it
is not legal or appropriate for the National Assembly to
debate a case already before the courts. It is expected that
the opposition will counter that the debate is on the
management of the case, not the case itself, and that the
MNSD majority debated an army mutiny case several years ago
even while that trial was ongoing (setting a precedent). The
Assembly adjourned at 2030 on Monday, with a re-opening
scheduled for 1000 today. As of this writing the Assembly had

NIAMEY 00000737 002 OF 002


not re-convened.

-----------------------
READY, AND JUST WAITING
FOR THE VOTES?
-----------------------

4. (U) PM Amadou took the floor on Monday, despite opposition
attempts to rule his address to the Deputies out of order.
Hama spoke for five minutes, long enough to denounce the
opposition, challenge them to bring evidence of his
implication in the school funding scandal, and state the he
would resign were such evidence provided. The PM's bravado
may be a feint. Or, it may reflect confidence born of
judicious vote counting.

------------------------------------------
COMMENT: NO HONOR, BUT SOME FEAR AMONG POL
PARTY CHIEFS...HOW HAMA CAN STAY
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) It is interesting that the opposition moved this
censure motion at a time when both Niger President Mamadou
Tandja and National Assembly President Mahamane Ousmane were
out of the country on previously scheduled travel (the former
to preside over the Lake Chad Basin Commission meeting in
Abuja). Pol FSN heard from some contacts that this time, a
significant number of coalition deputies (including a few
from the MNSD itself) might vote for a censure motion. If so,
the, PM could fall. Failing that, the defection of a number
of MNSD Deputies would suggest a lack of party unity heading
into 2009 elections. Tensions within the party over PM
Amadou's Djerma ethnicity and anxiety over his leadership
style and allegations of corruption against him and some of
his ministers may all play a role. (Note: Niger's Djerma
minority ruled the country for thirty years post
independence, but President Tandja is from another group. End
note.) Leaders of the majority coalition's other member
parties -- particularly CDS leader and National Assembly
President Mahamane Ousmane -- love to gripe about PM Amadou's
leadership. The press is rife with talk of a "secret deal"
between President Tandja and one or more of the coalition
members to shift the Premiership between party chiefs.

6. (SBU) Perhaps this time such a combination of factors will
suffice to topple PM Amadou. However, the PM is one of
Niger's most durable politicians, and may be able to exert
enough pressure on other coalition members to thwart the
opposition yet again. Most of the MNSD's coalition partners
are small parties. With the exception of CDS (22 seats), none
is guaranteed as advantageous a position after a ministerial
re-shuffle. Each coalition member has a share of ministerial
berths. Each coalition party president has a nice sinecure.
How ever much these ambitious men (including two former PMs
and one former President) relish Hama's seat, each knows that
when the music stops, he could be the one without a chair.
ALLEN

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