Niger's electoral commission says all
is set for Tuesday's referendum that seeks to extend President Mamadou Tandja's
term limits for three more years.
This follows the opposition's failure to
prevent the poll after seeking a court injunction to stop the electoral body
from organizing the referendum.
government says it expects a massive turnout in support of President Tandja,
whose second five year term ends later in December this year.
have vowed to thwart the poll, despite the government's threats to arrest
leaders of the opposition if the vote is disrupted.
Human rights activist Abdul
Kamardine told VOA that the majority of Nigeriens seem
disinterested in the referendum.
Tuesday August 4, Tandja is going ahead with his plan to force himself on the
people of Niger…the constitutional court tried to stop him, the international
community tried to negotiate with him to slow down, (but) he refused,"
described the situation ahead of today's vote as a blockade.
need to know that the referendum is taking place… is like the state is under
siege. So everywhere you can see the police, the military people, and the
gendarmes," he said.
said the government has underscored its determination to arrest opponents who
have vowed to prevent the referendum.
interior minister came out threatening the opposition people to arrest them if
they try to interrupt the process. But they are saying they will use all the
legal means that the constitution allows them to stop the process," Kamardine
said Nigeriens are not overly enthused about the vote.
in Niamey you can see people are not showing interest. So it is only in the
rural areas where they are mobilizing people. You know, my giving them
money…but for sure if the election should happen … I can only see about 20
percent of the people of Niger coming out to vote," he said.
said opponents of the referendum have been educating Nigeriens not to
participate in the vote.
opposition is actually is enlightening the population. We know that if it (the
referendum) works, we know that the international community will impose
embargoes on the country starting from the European Union…to stop their
financial cooperation with the state of Niger," Kamardine said.
criticized the opposition tactics to thwart today's referendum.
(opposition) are saying they want to try some peaceful means to stop it. But I
don't think it can work… Maybe what they are trying to do is to invade the
different polling stations," he said.
Tandja refused to shelve plans to extend his term limits for three more years
despite coming under local and international pressure.
Tandja insists his actions
are legal, but opponents say he could only rule by decree if Niger was under
threat and parliament was in place to safeguard against abuse. Tandja dissolved
the constitutional court after it ruled the referendum illegal reconstituting
it with those he appointed.