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Cablegate: Niger: Upcoming Local Elections, Republic Day Celebration

VZCZCXRO2147
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1004/01 3552027
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 212027Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5530
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1708

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 001004

DEPT FOR AF/W AND AF/RSA; PLS PASS TO USAID AFR/W
ACCRA FOR USAID/WA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI PHUM NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Upcoming Local Elections, Republic Day Celebration
and Pro-Tandja Rally

Ref: a) Niamey 984 b) Niamey 977

1. (U) Summary: On December 15, President Tandja launched the
campaign for local elections. On December 17, he addressed the
nation on the occasion of the 51st anniversary of the Proclamation
of the Republic of Niger. On December 20, political parties
favorable to the president's continuation in power held a rally to
show support for the Sixth Republic on the eve of inclusive
negotiations between the Government of Niger and the Opposition
under the auspices of the ECOWAS mediator. End summary.

President Tandja Launches Campaign for Local Elections
--------------------------------------------- ---------
2. (U) On December 15, President Tandja addressed the nation to
launch the campaign for the December 27 local elections at the
regional, municipal and communal levels. The President stated that
the elections are consistent with the gradual installation of the
institutions of the Sixth Republic. He also stressed that the
elections would be essential to the renewal of institutions such as
the High Council of Territorial Collectivities (HCCT) and the
Economic, Social and Cultural Council (CESOC), which comprise a
majority of local council members. President Tandja called for a
strong voter turnout, urging citizens to, "...a general
mobilization, like during the referendum and legislative
(elections), in order to elect in a sovereign manner your
representatives...Similar to the preceding votes, all measures have
been taken...to see that these crucial elections for the
consolidation of democracy take place peacefully." Opposition
parties restated that they would boycott any elections based on the
new constitution.

President Tandja's Republic Day Address
---------------------------------------
3. (U) On December 17, President Tandja addressed the nation on the
occasion of the 51st anniversary of the Proclamation of the
Republic. Key points of the president's speech follow:

-- The President mentioned that "The institutional structure of this
Sixth Republic is taking shape with installation of the National
Assembly and the upcoming local elections;"

-- He stated, "Several challenges still lie before us...and require
that we get more organized...by opting for a new Republic, we have
chosen the path of dignity and honor. However, we must be fully
aware there is a price to pay, because such responsible choices
require a great deal of sacrifice." He added that Nigeriens must
convince themselves that Niger will only be built by Nigeriens, that
it's equally important for Nigeriens to convince themselves that
foreign aid is only a supplement, and not a substitute for their own
efforts;

-- Referring to the conflict in the north, President Tandja said,
"little by little a peaceful path has been realized as demonstrated
with the laying down of arms by different fronts that were engaged
in the conflict;"

-- The President stated that, "Following the example of our defense
and security forces, we need a loyal civil service that is ridden of
partisan practices and the evils of corruption, where each Nigerien,
appointed based on his or her competence, will strive for the sole
interest of the nation...No nation is built without hard work and
sacrifice;"

-- He further said that the new Constitution of August 18, 2009,
specifically provides for the essential role of women and youth in
the Republic and provides a privileged place for oldest institutions
of the nation, namely the traditional chieftancies, which as
"custodians and the embodiment of values that shape our
community...deserve respect and consideration." (Note: traditional
leaders, women, and youth remain key components of President
Tandja's carefully built base of grassroots supporters. End note.);
and

-- The President pointed out that, "The agricultural production did
not totally meet expectations as attested in the agricultural and
livestock survey results. Faced with such a situation, notably
climatic changes, we need to work harder on production at the
numerous water points across the territory...The State, as is its
practice, will put in place measures to maintain cereal prices at an
acceptable level for all and permit our valiant populations to live
the next months without major difficulty." (Note: The notion of
price controls for cereals, unfortunately, raises the specter of
hoarding, parallel markets, and/or corruption. End note.)


NIAMEY 00001004 002 OF 002


President's Supporters Rally
----------------------------
4. (U) On December 20, roughly 7,000 people under the Alliance of
Forces for Democracy and the Republic (AFDR), formerly the ruling
coalition, but currently made up of 25 political parties supporting
"Tazarce" (the President's continuation in office), held a rally in
which they renewed their support for President Tandja and expressed
their determination to sustain the Sixth Republic. The new National
Assembly Speaker, former Prime Minister, and ruling party MNSD
President Seyni Oumarou, who spoke on behalf of the AFDR, called on
"Some actors of the international community to show restraint and
good judgment in assessing the situation in Niger." The rally
proceeded peacefully, without violence or arrests, as had recent
political gatherings (refs A and B).

ECOWAS Mediator Opens Political Dialogue Meeting
--------------------------------------------- ---
5. (U) On December 21, the ECOWAS mediator for Niger's political
crisis, retired General and former Nigerian head of state Abdusalami
Abubakar, opened an inclusive dialogue between the Government of
Niger and members of the Opposition at Niamey's Palais des Congres.
(Note: Details will follow via septel. End note.)

Comment
-------
6. (SBU) The events of the past week occur in the context of
tensions on the eve of December 22, the last day of President
Tandja's second and final term under the 1999 Constitution. The
political crisis continues with the Opposition and much of civil
society rejecting the August 4 referendum and the newly adopted
constitution, which extends the government for three years and drops
presidential term limits. Although considerable political tension
remains, there are hopes that the ECOWAS-sponsored mediation will
provide some relief. The inclusive dialogue, which opened in the
absence of main Opposition figures - Mahamadou Issoufou, Mahamane
Ousmane, and Hama Amadou - who remain outside Niger despite the
GON's decision to suspend legal action against them during the
negotiations. While the Opposition had conceded to the GONs' demand
to hold talks in Niamey, the protagonists' cut-and-dried positions
on the substance remain unchanged; and observers foresee a deadlock,
or perhaps long, drawn-out negotiations that serve only to buy time
for President Tandja. End comment.

ALLEN

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