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Niger Opposition Contests Parliamentary Elections

Niger Opposition Contests Parliamentary Elections

Niger Opposition Contests Parliamentary Elections

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Opposition parties and civil society groups in Niger have spoken out about the results of last Tuesday's parliamentary elections, where President Mamadou Tandja's ruling party won a majority of seats.

Opposition groups in Niger have spoken out strongly against President Mamadou Tandja, saying his complete disregard for democracy and international conventions is leading the country down a dead-end road.

Abdou Hamani is spokesperson for a grouping of civil society and opposition political parties called the Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic. He says Tandja's actions amount to a constitutional coup.

Hamani says Tandja's stubborn refusal to give up power will leave Niger isolated in international and regional political arenas. He says the country has sunk to the lowest level, a grave-digger of democracy.

Legislative elections were held on October 20 to replace Niger's parliament which was dissolved by Tandja in June. The poll went ahead despite an opposition boycott and a request from the Economic Community of West African States to delay elections.

On Saturday, the election commission said Tandja's ruling party won a clear majority, with 76 of 113 seats. But the international community has widely criticized the elections as an illegal bid by President Tandja to hold onto power. ECOWAS has since suspended Niger's membership, cutting all economic and bilateral assistance to the country. The European Union has also delayed aid.

Tandja says the people want him to remain in power in order to manage important contracts regarding the country's mineral wealth. Niger has large deposits of uranium and the French nuclear power company Areva is spending $1.79 billion on building a uranium mine in the country.

Civil society organizations and opposition parties are calling on Tandja to restore democratic institutions in Niger.

Hamani says the coalition is calling on President Tandja to liberate all political prisoners and guarantee freedom to demonstrate, equal access to state media and a return to normal constitutional order.