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Niger Outlines Criteria for Presidential Aspirants

The head of the junta in Niger, Major Salou Djibo, who took over in a February 18, 2010 coup that toppled President Mamadou Tandja, 24 Feb 2010 (file photo)

A leading member of Niger’s opposition coalition has expressed support for a proposed law that would ensure that future presidential aspirants must be university degree holders and be less than 70 years old.

Sani Iro, communications director of the opposition Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya), told VOA that a well-educated leader is likely to be better equipped to solve the country’s growing problems.

“In this modern era, it’s compulsory that someone should be able to understand all the relations and to be able to establish relations with the other parts of the world. This is not possible for someone who is not able to show minimum level of education,” he said.

The mandatory requirement was proposed by Niger’s Consultative Council, which was set up by the military junta in February. This comes after the junta deposed long-time President Mamadou Tandja for amending the constitution that removed term limits.

The junta tasked the council to lead the country’s transitional period ahead of the next general elections.

The council said the mandatory degree requirement would go a long way to reposition Niger in the realm of international business.

Opposition leader Iro said previous leaders who were not well-educated created problems.

“This [is] because we have already experienced a president who hasn’t such a level, who [had] have [no] college level [schooling], who led the country, and he acted as an ignorant, and we faced all the problems that you know. So, that is why the president should understand the democracy, the law and all these,” Iro said.

Opponents described the mandatory degree requirement as “pure discrimination” after the council stated that highly-educated presidents would bring more international aid to Niger and improve its status. Niger has often been described as one of the poorest countries in the world.

But, opposition leader Iro said the mandatory requirement is necessary.

“These arguments are not really sensible because in everything, in every kind of situation, you are obliged to have criteria. And, if you don’t have any criteria, then you will face any kind of situation and you will be surprised with problems that you did not foresee. So, they are using these kinds of argument just to oppose,” Iro said.

The military junta said democratic elections will be held on 26 December in a presidential vote.