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Cablegate: Campaigning for Legislative Election Begins, Opposition In

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R 301526Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5355
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1666
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000790

DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA
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ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID/WA
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU - J MAYBURY
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Campaigning for Legislative Election Begins, Opposition in
Limbo

1. Summary: On September 27, President Tandja appeared on State
television (Tele-Sahel) to discuss the National Assembly election
slated for October 20. He outlined the importance of the poll,
urging Nigeriens to vote in mass and to "choose competent men and
women in order to set up a National Assembly that is worthy of its
name." The opposition, which has denounced the election, declared
on September 26 that it will boycott the election. Although the
opposition continues to call for the resignation of President
Tandja, it is clear that it has lost its resolve and is giving
President Tandja "carte blanche" to supplement his strengthened
executive branch with a supportive legislature. End summary.

National Assembly Likely to Comprise Tandja Supporters
--------------------------------------------- ---------
2. On September 27, minutes after President Tandja's address to the
nation, election "kickoff" events took place throughout the country.
The Constitutional Court announced on September 19 that 765
candidates were eligible to participate in the National Assembly
election, with 76 having no party affiliation. All 765 candidates
are vying for 113 seats in the National Assembly; 30 additional
seats will be hand-picked by the President.

3. On September 26, the Coalition of Democratic Forces for the
Republic (CFDR), one of the main opposition umbrella organizations,
declared that it would organize a massive boycott of the legislative
election slated for October 20. The opposition's across the board
decision to boycott the elections ensures that President Tandja will
have a strong majority of supporters in the National Assembly.

4. Comment: The administration of President Tandja has engaged in a
concerted campaign of harassing and persecuting those who oppose
remaining in power. Opposition figures have gone into hiding or
self-imposed self-censorship, and fear that publicly criticizing
President Tandja could land them in prison. Furthermore, recent
calls for protest have yielded minimal turnout; for example, on
September 26 fewer than 100 individuals participated in a protest in
Niamey despite opposition calls for massive demonstrations
nationwide. This lack of coordination, political will, and lack of
historic precedent of the citizenry taking to the streets to protest
leave the opposition's hopes of a political roll-back wanting. End
comment.

WHITAKER

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