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Niger PM Working with Military Leaders on New Elections


Soldiers stand guard outside the office of Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's president Mamadou Tandja in Niamey, 21 Feb 2010

Soldiers stand guard outside the office of Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's president Mamadou Tandja in Niamey, 21 Feb 2010

Niger's new prime minister says military leaders have given him complete control of the running of a transitional government to organize new elections. The military took power in a coup last week.

Prime Minister Mahamadou Danda says he is working with the military Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy on moving forward toward new elections.

At the moment, Prime Minister Danda says the most important thing for both the military and his yet-to-be-appointed government is the creation of a consultative council to bring together all of the stakeholders in Niger's political process to define the priorities of a transitional government. He says the military does not want to assume the right to establish the length of this transition on its own, so it will wait to hear from this consultative council.

Mr. Danda says military leader Major Salou Djibo has assured him that he will have a free hand in conducting the activities of the transitional government. The prime minister says he will not have a huge Cabinet. Instead, he says he will focus on the government's main tasks and will consider the qualifications of those invited to join the Cabinet, along with the military.

Mr. Danda says his government will not include political leaders.

Mr. Danda says it is clear that every citizen of Niger supports one of the parties. So he says the new government will focus on more technocratic expertise and competence, unlike the transitional government that followed Niger's 1999 coup, when political leaders were asked to nominate Cabinet ministers.

The military has already said that none of the members of its ruling council or the transitional government will be allowed to stand in the next election.

Soldiers took power one week ago, toppling President Mamadou Tandja as he chaired a cabinet meeting. The president had grown increasingly unpopular since using an August referendum to expand his powers and give himself another three years in office.

When Niger's constitutional court and parliament said the referendum was illegal, President Tandja replaced them with new judges and new lawmakers who backed his new government.

The president and six of his ministers remain under house arrest.

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