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Niger opposition vows to resist new constitution

[JURIST] Niger's opposition parties on Monday announced that they would resist any effort to implement a new constitution expanding executive powers, which was approved [JURIST report] by Nigerien voters earlier this month and validated [AFP report] by the country's Constitutional Court on Friday. Human rights activist Abdul Kamardine said [VOA report; recorded audio] that "civil societies are joining hands with the political opposition" to resist efforts by President Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] to replace Niger's 1999 Constitution [text, in French] by holding three days of public demonstration and recalling members of the House of Assembly. Kamardine added that the opposition is acting in accordance with a provision in the existing constitution that compels the citizenry to resist illegal changes to the constitutional order. Seven labor unions, members of the opposition Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic (CDFR), on Sunday announced plans to hold a 72-hour strike [AFP report] to protest the validity of the referendum. CDFR, which disputes [press release, in French] Tandja's claim that 92 percent of the vote [BBC report] approved the referendum, said that Tandja had lost all of his legitimacy and legality [press release, in French], both at home and internationally, by relying on inflated numbers to support the new constitution's adoption.

Among the new constitution's changes is the abolition of a presidential two-term limit, allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years [AFP report] and to run in any subsequent elections, allowing the president to appoint one third of the members [CBC report] of a newly-created Senate, and establishing a media-monitoring position that would have the authority to jail reporters thought to present a threat to the country. In the lead-up to the election, CDFR had encouraged a popular boycott [AP report] of the referendum on constitutional grounds, forming the basis for its dismissal of official electoral statistics. In June, opposition leader Bazoum Mohamed of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website] accused Tandja of committing a coup d'etat [JURIST report] by annulling the West African country's Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled [Pana report] in May that plans to hold a referendum on allowing a third term were unconstitutional. Tandja responded to the ruling by dissolving parliament and assuming emergency powers.

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