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Niger to Begin Discussions on Proposed Constitution

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 prominent member of Niger’s Consultative Council says the group will soon begin discussions on a proposed constitution ahead of the referendum scheduled for October 31.

Bazoum Mohammed expressed confidence that Nigeriens will fully embrace the newly proposed constitution as part of the transitional process in the country’s march toward restoring constitutional rule.

“We have a draft [constitution] which has been written by a special committee set up after the coup d’état. And, we will have our meeting of the Consultative Council on the 27th of this month, and we will have discussions about the constitution,” he said.

Comprised of 131 members, Niger’s military junta tasked the Consultative Council to ensure that a civilian government is in place by March next year.

The junta overthrew former President Mamadou Tandja on February 18 after the former leader came under both local and international criticism for changing the constitution that removed term limits.

President Tandja refused to step down after his two-five year terms saying Nigeriens wanted him to stay to complete his “good works.”

After overthrowing President Tandja, the junta pledged to return power to civilians after a transitional period of 12 months.

Council member Mohammed said the newly proposed constitution will not be alien to Nigeriens.

“The choice they have in this committee is the choice…like this one we had [during] the Fifth Republic when Mr. Tandja was the president. We will have the president of the republic, who will be elected by the people, and he will appoint a prime minister who will be the chief of the government. And, he [prime minister] will have to have the support of the majority in the National Assembly (parliament) if he wants to stay,” Mohammed said.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc, condemned the military takeover and urged the junta to expedite Niger’s return to constitutional rule.

But, after holding discussions with leaders of the junta, the regional bloc said it was encouraged by the transitional process that will ensure a return to democracy.

Observers blame deposed former President Tandja for plunging the country into a political crisis that led to the coup d’état.

Former President Tandja is still under house arrest in Niger since his overthrow.