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Cablegate: Niger: 4th Anniversary of Pres. Tandja's 2nd Term;

VZCZCXRO5749
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1179/01 3640522
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290522Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4783
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001179

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

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Niger: 4th Anniversary of Pres. Tandja's 2nd Term;
Supporters Call for Extension of Gov't Institutions

REF: A) Niamey 1066, B) Niamey 1111, C) Niamey 1173

1. Summary: Immediately after the festivities marking the 50th
Anniversary of the Republic of Niger, the fourth anniversary of
President Tandja's second term was celebrated on December 21.
Traditionally a commemorative event, this year's celebration was
transformed into a political rally, wherein Tandja supporters called
for an extension of the President's term of office by three years.
On December 23, Tandja supporters created the "People's Movement for
the Pursuit of the President's Action" in order to press the
National Assembly to approve a constitutional amendment that would
allow this extension. These developments will probably exacerbate
the controversy over the "Tazarce" (stay the course) movement, as
civil society groups and the political opposition insistently call
on the President to abide by his oath and comply with the term of
office provided by the constitution (Ref B). End Summary.

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2. In his address to the nation on December 17 (Ref C), President
Tandja presented an overall positive track record of his term,
calling on Nigeriens to "see that these assets be strengthened and
that all those great construction projects...be completed." On
December 20, the President met with all eight regional delegations
that attended the Tillabery cultural and sports festival (Ref C),
and thanked them for a job well done. On that occasion, a
representative of Niger's traditional chiefs (some were present at
the meeting) assured the President of their "total support in order
to continue his work." On December 21, Pres. Tandja supporters
organized a rally in which they praised the President's track record
and asked for an extension of his term.

3. The Prime Minister, cabinet members, the heads of various
government institutions, some political party leaders of the ruling
coalition attended the 4th anniversary rally, chaired by a cabinet
member. On behalf of the organizers of the rally, an advisor to the
Prime Minister read the summary of a memorandum calling the
establishment of a "political transition" that would allow President
Tandja "to complete the great work he has undertaken" and "to bring
a final solution" to the armed conflict in the north. Rally
organizers also proposed "maintaining all government institutions
until 2012" and the formation of a "national consensus government."
They further called on the National Assembly to consider the various
proposals during their next session.

4. Also present at the rally was the Vice President of Niger's
Islamic Council, who read a statement applauding the President's
record. On December 22, in an editorial regarding the rally, the
head of the government communication unit said, "the people have
spoken" and there should be "no debate" over the extension. The
editorialist extended an invitation to the President, saying,
"because you have never failed to deliver on the people's requests,
we believe that you will also accept this call." (Note: The same
made an editorial following the celebration of Niger's Independence
last August hinting at support for an extension of the presidential
term of office - Ref B. End Note.)

5. On December 23, the "People's Movement for the Pursuit of the
President's Action" was created. In its manifesto, the movement
announced its intention to submit to the National Assembly a
proposal to change the constitution. The movement said that if the
National Assembly rejected the proposal, then it would ask the
President to call a referendum.

6. Several organizations, political opposition representatives, and
National Assembly members have expressed opposition to a "consensus
government."
Iro Sani, spokesperson of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and
Socialism (PNDS), said that the PNDS would respond if President
Tandja declared he would seek a third term or an extension of his
current mandate. PNDS Vice President and National Assembly member
Bazoum Mohamed told the press that the National Assembly would never
pass a request for a third presidential term and that the opposition
would not accept participating in any "unity government." During a
press conference on December 22, Nigerien Party for Self-Reliance
(PNA) leader Sanoussi Jackou said that those who support the Tazarce
move "have no respect for Niger's people, intellectuals, political
parties, constitution and democracy." For Jackou, "this is
dishonest. We do not want a free mandate. We want elections. PNA
will not agree to this (expletive)." The Movement of Niger's People
(MPN) said, "we are not animals. We are intelligent. Did not all
former presidents do anything for the country? Did they ask an
extension? Now we understand that the president is accomplice to
this movement (Tazarce)."

7. Comment: Opposition leaders did not attend the December 21
rally. It remains to be seen how the Alliance of Forces for
Democracy and the Republic (AFDR) - the majority coalition - will
react to these events. Are all political parties accomplices to
this move, as some critics claim? Do current events confirm former
Prime Minister Hama's concerns when he was trying to explain his
predicament? Observers were surprised that the President did not

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address the key issue of upcoming elections while the completion of
the voter register (purposefully?) stalls - are there ulterior
motives?

7. For some observers, the probability is high for these proposals
to be passed by members of the National Assembly because an
extension-transition of 3 years would benefit many of them who may
not otherwise return to the National Assembly if elections were to
be held in 2009. For other analysts, these events have rekindled the
debate over an extension of the President's term, and if the
situation is not well managed, it may open a period of political
instability in Niger. End comment.

Allen

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