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Cablegate: Civil Society, Opposition React to Calls for Third Term

VZCZCXRO7631
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1111/01 3261002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211002Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4707
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001111

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, AND DRL/AF

PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PHUM NG
SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY, OPPOSITION REACT TO CALLS FOR THIRD TERM
FOR PRESIDENT TANDJA

REF: NIAMEY 1066

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Summary
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1. Over the past several months speculation has mounted in the
local media, within civil society, and in political circles about
President Tandja's political intentions to seek a third term through
an amendment to the country's constitution, which limits the
presidential office to two five-year terms. While on several
occasions the president has dismissed the option of seeking any
extension, he has shown restraint toward current increasing calls
asking him to do so and growing criticism urging him to refrain.
After a series of statements by various civil society groups
sounding the alarm, the political opposition is also becoming more
vocal. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Calls for President Tandja to Continue in Office
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. On August 5, in an editorial following the celebration of
Niger's Independence Day and the laying of the first stone of the
Kandadji dam, the head of the government communication unit said in
evocative terms, "Mr. President, Nigeriens still need you." On
August 8, during a talk show on public television, GON Minister of
Communications and Government Spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar called on
Nigeriens not to allow "amateurish politicians" to lead the country.
In September, the Party for Concertation and Peace (PCP) issued a
statement supporting President Tandja's work and announcing its
intention to include the revision of the constitution on the agenda
of the National Council for Political Dialogue (CNDP). The CNDP, an
advisory body made up of 39 political parties, rejected the PCP's
request.

3. On October 12, a group of Islamic associations declared that
there were no term limits for a leader (reftel). Following the
Zinder march on October 31 (reftel), similar movements took place in
November in the regional capitals of Agadez, Tahoua, Tillabery,
Maradi, and Niamey with chants of "tazarce" (a Hausa term roughly
meaning "stay the course") to encourage President Tandja to continue
his work. These calls also urged the National Assembly, the civil
society, and political parties to allow the president to do so.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Civil Society, Political Parties Warn Against Extension
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. Various civil society groups have denounced and warned against
any attempt to revise the constitution in order to extend limits in
presidential terms. On November 4, local sections of political
parties in Zinder reacted to the march of third term supporters. In
a joint statement, the Social Democratic Convention (CDS), the
Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the Alliance for
Democracy and Progress (ADP), and the African Democratic Rally (RDA)
denounced a spin by the governor of Zinder, and indicated "their
will to defend the President against those who incite him to violate
his Koranic oath." The same group of parties made a similar
statement in Maradi.

5. In Tillabery, the local sections of the PNDS and the National
Convergence (CONIR) issued a joint statement to call on the
president to abide by the oath of office. They warned "all those
who fear change and vie with deceit and opportunism to maintain
their unearned income regardless of the true aspirations of the
people" to brace themselves.
6. In Niamey, the federal executive board of the PNDS (the main
opposition party) noted in a statement that the current political
stability in Niger was built by all political parties and "allowed
the design, negotiation, and implementation of several beneficial
actions for the country." The PNDS Niamey federal executive board
further said that it would oppose any violation of the constitution.
It encouraged the President to commence preparations for
transparent and fair elections in order to move Niger to the level
of true democracies. The PNDS federal executive board said it would
use all legal means to protect the President against those who want
to make him renounce his oath and to miss an honorable exit after
all the loyal services he had rendered to the nation.

7. On November 20, the Confederation Democratique des Travailleurs
du Niger (CDTN), the nation's second largest labor union
confederation, issued a statement denouncing the ongoing marches
calling for President Tandja to seek a third term. The CDTN said
the marches, made under the pretense of exercising freedom of
expression, were an affront to the constitution and encouraged
President Tandja to violate his oath of office. The CDTN noted that
the president is the first protector of the constitution, and that

NIAMEY 00001111 002 OF 002


he had therefore a duty to uphold its provisions. Finally, the CDTN
called on civil society to join efforts to prevent abuse of the
constitution.

8. Also on November 20, the civil society umbrella organization
Coordination de la Societe Civile Nigerienne (CSCN) denounced the
"tazarce" movement, referring to it as a dangerous move aimed at
"killing democracy" in Niger. The CSCN called on the president to
comply with the constitution and abide by his oath of office.

9. The November 12 issue of a local opposition newspaper, "La Roue
de L'Histoire", published on its front page a letter from Prime
Minister Seini Oumarou, chairperson of the National Council for
Political Dialogue (CNDP), calling a CNDP meeting to examine
National Voter Registration Committee progress, a Constitutional
change and measures for compliance with the law on the
classification of senior government positions.

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Comment
-------

9. While "tazarce" marches receive nationwide coverage by state
media and are received by government officials and traditional
chiefs in all regions, opponents of this movement say that
authorities in Niamey have denied them access to public media,
despite the fact that they have paid for such coverage. Others
state that third mandate proponents hold signs at the front of
crowds of people assembled to see President Tandja, wherein most
participants have no idea that the signs are present and are not
espousing opinions on whether or not he should remain in power.
There are rumors that opposition political parties will issue a
statement on the political situation in Niger in late November. On
the other hand, President Tandja may use the occasion of December
18, Founding of the Republic Day, to make his intentions known.

11. A review of Niger's constitution and legal framework finds no
support for an effort to extend a president's term of office.
Article 36 of the constitution provides that the President is
elected for a term of five years, and he can be re-elected once.
Article 136 states that the provisions of Article 36 of the
constitution shall not be subject to revision. Furthermore, Article
2, paragraph 4 of law 2004-46 of June 16, 2004, on the referendum
process states, "no text relating to the provisions of Article 136
of the Constitution shall be subject to a referendum." End
Comment.

ALLEN

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