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Niger Opposition to Defy Tandja’s Decree


Niger's opposition says it will Monday call back in session the country's dissolved parliament in defiance of embattled President Mamadou Tandja's emergency powers.

The opposition parties contend that the president flouted the constitution after failing to organize fresh elections 45 days after he dissolved parliament.

Some political observers describe the strategy as dangerous and one that could potentially deepen the ongoing political stalemate.

This comes after some opposition leaders were arrested over the weekend while protesting the new constitution which extends President Tandja's term for three years.

Bazoum Mohammed, vice-president of the Party for Socialism and Democracy in Niger (PSDN), told VOA that the government's flouting of the new constitution is illegal and an affront to the tenets of democracy.

"This Monday, we have to call back the former national assembly, our parliament because the constitution allows him (Tandja) to do it (dissolve parliament), but the constitution says that he has at least 45 days or 90 days to organize a new election. And now after 90 days he has not organized election," Mohammed said.

He said Tandja has failed to abide by a provision in the Niger constitution.

"We want to know about the (provision) calling for election two months ago. He took a decree calling for parliamentary election (after dissolving parliament), and he did not organize it. So, since he refused to do that we consider that now we have to call back the former parliament," he said.

Mohammed dismissed accusations that the opposition's move is illegal.

"It can't be illegal because he is the illegality he refused to respect the High Court, the Constitutional Court decision that forbade him to organize his referendum," Mohammed said.

He said the opposition is determined to fight for the rights of Nigeriens.

"It is the price we have to pay for democracy. We don't recognize his emergency powers. He has no right to have such powers. So, now we know that we are in accordance of legality and legality is with us rather than with him (Tandja)," he said.

Mohammed said the opposition has grounds to rise up against what he called President Tandja's subversion of the constitution.

"Because of the decision of the constitutional court that said that his referendum was illegal, it is the first step and the basis of our struggle," he said.

Several leaders of the opposition were arrested over the weekend while protesting the amendment to the constitution which extends President Tandja's five-year term limit for three additional years.

Embattled President Tandja was scheduled to hand over power later in December when his term expires as Niger's constitutionally elected leader. But Tandja contends that Nigeriens wants him to continue beyond his term limits.

Both local and international observers have condemned the term limit extension, describing it as a setback in Niger's fledgling democracy.

Mohammed said there is a need for Nigeriens to fight for democracy.

"When you fight for democracy, you are not to say what will I have, can I survive, these questions there (is) no opportunity to put them. We have to fight and we are ready to pay the price of democracy and freedom for which we are fighting," Mohammed said.

Meanwhile, President Tandja has set October 20 as the date for Nigeriens to elect parliamentarians.

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