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Niger Legislator Says President Tandja’s Dissolution of Parliament is Dictatorial

Niger parliamentarians are calling President Mamadou Tandja's dissolution of parliament Tuesday dictatorial after the Constitutional Court foiled his bid for a third term.

The court also prevented the leader from his planned referendum which would have allowed him to lift term limits. The parliamentarians vowed to begin demonstrations to protest President Tandja's action, calling it a coup d'état aimed at destabilizing the country.

President Tandja is expected to complete his two five-year terms in office later this year. Abdullahi Jauri is a legislator in Niger's dissolved parliament. He told VOA Nigeriens would resist President Tandja's objective to create a monarchy.

"The people are very sad about that because, you know, Niger was one of the most democratic states in Africa where we ran two free and fair and transparent elections," Jauri said.

He said the president seems to have his interests above the country's interest.

"Now for the ambition of one person who wants to go beyond his two term mandate, we are now very worried about the future of Niger because anything can happen," he said.

Jauri said President Tandja's ambition to remove term limits which would enable him to pursue a third term after his mandate expires later in the year are illegal.

"All that action they are not following law and regulation of Niger," Jauri said.

He said the protesters intend to alert Nigeriens about the illegality of the president's action.

"We are going to tell the people exactly what the Constitutional Court has said that he (President Tandja) has not respected his oath," Jauri said.

He explained that those opposed to the president's ambition are determined to sensitize other Nigeriens about their freedom to choose a new leader.

"We are going to struggle, and you know, there is a rally program starting from the far end of Niger which would be held with all the majority of the political parties. It will take about 10 days," he said.

Jauri condemned the president's move as an affront to Nigeriens, which amounted to unconstitutional seizure of power.

"Right now it is like a civilian coup d'état," he said.

Jauri said the president's action is a pretext to sterner measures that he really wants to take.

"He has expressed he wants to bring change to the presidential regime. That means all the power would be concentrated on one hand, while the real fact is that he wants to install a monarchy regime," Jauri said.

He said despite the refusal of the court to allow his third term bid, President Tandja wants to break all rules and regulations to achieve his aim.

"This constitution does not allow him more than two terms. And the Constitutional Court, a national body, yesterday said no to whether he can have a referendum. They said no, it is not possible," he said.

Jauri said the president had sought the legislators input, but then refused to listen to them.

"Yesterday brought a letter asking our advice, and he didn't even have the courtesy to listen to our advice about that," Jauri said.

He said the opposition would leave no stone unturned to thwart what he described as President Tandja's illegal act.

"We will go through what law and regulation of our country gives us the right," he said.

Jauri said the opposition would not be cowed into submission. Even if the president uses the military to prevent them from protesting, he said, Nigeriens will fight for their rights.

"If he puts the force to stop us, then the population would be witness. The international community will witness again. So anyway, we will fight by any means," Jauri said.

"You know, liberty, you have to fight to get it. So no liberty would be served on a tray like this so we are ready to pay the price which we have to pay," he said.

The embattled president has long maintained that Niger's population wants him to stay and lead the country. He contends that he has plans to end a rebel insurgency that has destabilized parts of the Sahara, including regions where al-Qaeda terrorists reportedly operate.

Meanwhile, the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said last week that neighboring countries could punish Niger with economic sanctions if it behaved undemocratically over President Tandja's referendum proposal.