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Cablegate: Niger: National Council for Political Dialogue Proposes

VZCZCXRO2647
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0625/01 2391540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271540Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PHUM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: National Council for Political Dialogue Proposes
Increase to Size of National Assembly; Opposition Boycotts Meeting

Ref: a) Niamey 618 b) Niamey 609 c) Niamey 599
d) Niamey 584 e) Niamey 582 f) Niamey 517

NIAMEY 00000625 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: The National Council for Political Dialogue (CNDP)
convened on August 26 to discuss issues related to the announced
October 20 legislative elections (Ref B), and adopted a proposal to
increase the size of the National Assembly. Most opposition parties
shunned the meeting. End Summary.

2. The CNDP meeting primary agenda item main was the adoption of a
proposal to establish a "national list" (meaning at-large list) of
thirty (30) new seats in addition to the existing 113 seats for the
various constituencies. This will raise the number of National
Assembly seats from 113 to 143. Under the new plan, political
parties participating in the next elections will present two lists -
a list for constituencies from which 113 Deputies will be elected,
and a "national list" of 30 candidates whose seats will be
apportioned according to "a prorated estimate of each party's
cumulative results at the national level."
3. The rationale behind the adoption of a "national list" was to
"ensure a good representation of the country's population" of 14.3
million, at the rate of one Deputy per one hundred thousand people,
as provided by law. The proponents of the "national list" also
estimated that 50 percent of the former National Assembly Deputies
were illiterate, or did not understand French, the country's
official language and the National Assembly's working language. The
"national list" presumably will be required to comprise a maximum of
cadres to upgrade the institution's competencies. According to
Minister of Interior, Public Security, and Decentralization Albade
Abouba, the acting CNDP chairman, during popularization of the new
constitution (Ref F) citizens expressed the desire not only for an
increase in the number of National Assembly seats, but also to adopt
a national list that would help raise the legislative body's overall
level of education.
4. The issue of registration fees to be paid by candidates was
raised during the CNDP meeting. On August 21, the Council of
Ministers set "electoral fees for legislative elections at CFA
100,000 ($200)" per candidate. The majority of the political
parties found this amount too high and proposed the fee be set at
CFA 25,000 ($50).
5. While a few opposition parties such as the Nigerien Party for
Self-Reliance (PNA) and the Party for National Unity and Development
(PUND) attended the CNDP meeting, key parties like the Nigerien
Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the Social Democratic
Convention (CDS), the Nigerien Alliance for Democracy and Progress
(ANDP), and the newly-formed dissident Niger's Democratic Movement
(MODEN) that make up over 50 percent of the dissolved National
Assembly, and several parties of the "non-parliamentary" opposition
decided to boycott the meeting. Opposition parties maintain they do
not recognize the August 4, 2009 constitution, and therefore cannot
participate in any election based on, much less attend a meeting
relating to, the new constitution (Ref D).
6. Before the CNDP meeting, a group of civil society organizations
supporting President Tandja's continuation plan denounced the
opposition's rejection of the new constitution, and asked Minister
Albade about action the GON intends to take regarding the
opposition's claim that it would reinstate the August 9, 1999
Constitution, the dissolved National Assembly and Constitutional
Court. Albade said that the GON will deal with "whoever defies the
constitution." He stated that "pretending to reactivate those
institutions is like trying to bring back a dead person to life."
The group further asked the Minister if and how authorities will
manage an anticipated, imminent visit of ECOWAS envoys. Albade
responded that "they will be received with the welcoming hospitality
Niger extends all its guests of honor... However, they better clean
their doorsteps before making any suggestions about the situation in
Niger."

7. Background: The CNDP, which was created in 2004, is a formal
national framework for continued dialogue within the Nigerien
political class, in order to establish the much needed social and
economic stability for successful elections and sustainable
development in Niger. All political parties (majority, opposition,
non-affiliated) are represented. CNDP members commit themselves to
build sustainable consensus on questions of national interest and
democratic principles of governance. In 2004, the National Movement
for a Society of Development (MNSD), the main party of the ruling
coalition, proposed a "national list" in order to upgrade the
National Assembly's overall instructional level and its
competencies. The PNDS appeared favorable to the project while the
CDS and several other parties rejected it. The plan was ultimately

NIAMEY 00000625 002.2 OF 002


abandoned without further explanation.

8. Comment: The CNDP's current proposal may have ulterior motives.
Some analysts see it as a move by President Tandja to reward some
Tazarce supporters who cannot otherwise win elections in their
constituencies, or who lack other resources to obtain a ticket to
the National Assembly. The "national list" of thirty Deputies would
be beneficial to the President, consistent with his authority to
appoint one-third of the Senate, as well as the Cabinet, a majority
of the Constitutional Court and High Council of Communication
members. Critics say that only the President of Niger should be
elected at the national level. Moreover, adding 30 more Deputies to
the National Assembly will further strain the country's budget. End
comment.

ALLEN

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