UPDATE 1-Niger leader dissolves constitutional court

Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:20am IST

* Tandja dissolves constitutional court

* Appoints eight new pro-referendum ministers

* Radio station taken off air

(Releads with dissolution of court, adds army reaction)

By Abdoulaye Massalatchi

NIAMEY, June 29 (Reuters) - Niger's president dissolved the constitutional court on Monday, hours after he appointed eight new ministers from parties that back his plan for a referendum on extending his stay in office.

The court said this month that President Mamadou Tandja's scheme was unlawful, but the president of the uranium-exporting West African country has vowed to press ahead anyway.

Tandja was due to step down when his term ends later this year, but he wants a referendum on Aug. 4 on whether he should be able to lead Niger for at least three more years.

The referendum plan has raised concerns among regional political bodies and Western donors, who fear it is a sign of back-sliding on democracy. It has also brought protests by unions and the opposition at home.

Niger's armed forces said on Monday they would remain independent, after the anti-referendum coalition called upon them at the weekend to disobey orders.

"The Nigerien armed forces will not serve partisan interests," defence ministry spokesman Colonel Goukoye Abdoulkarim said on state radio. "They ask the different actors to exclude them from politics once and for all."

Tension rose when Tandja announced on Friday he would rule by decree after Niger's highest court again told him the referendum would be illegal.

The eight ministers who joined the 33-member cabinet on Monday replace those from Tandja's former ally, the Democratic and Social Convention party, which walked out of his government last week in protest over the referendum.

The new ministers all belong to parties that back the vote.

In a sign of a tougher government stand, a private radio station was taken off air on Monday after broadcasting an opposition statement. Tandja's foes demand that he step down and have called on security forces to disobey his orders.

The landlocked former French colony of 15 million people is one of the world's poorest countries.

Tandja says he needs the time to introduce a fully presidential system of government that will give the president more power and end current blockages in governance.

He also says people want him to complete large infrastructure projects, including a hydro-electric dam, an oil refinery and a uranium mine that will make Niger the world's second biggest producer of the nuclear fuel. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Richard Meares)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Shares Hit Record

Sensex, Nifty rise to second consecutive record high

Sensex surges 500 points on BOJ easing, L&T gains

The BSE Sensex and Nifty surged to record highs for a second consecutive session on Friday after Bank of Japan's surprise expansion of its massive stimulus programme raised hopes for additional foreign inflows, boosting blue-chips such as Larsen & Toubro.  Full Article 

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Wilful Negligence?

Wilful Negligence?

SEBI piles pressure on Sahara to sell overseas hotels  Full Article 

Indian Economy

Indian Economy

India's fiscal deficit in H1 almost 83 pct of full-year target.  Full Article 

M&M Earnings

M&M Earnings

M&M Q2 net profit down 4 percent, hit by poor monsoon.  Full Article 

Ban on E-Cigs?

Ban on E-Cigs?

Govt considers ban on e-cigarettes, sale of single smokes.  Full Article 

Commodities

Commodities

Silver futures in India hit four-year low on global cues.  Full Article 

BOJ Policy

BOJ Policy

BOJ shocks markets with surprise easing as inflation slows.  Full Article 

Shadow Banking

Shadow Banking

China's shadow banking sector growing rapidly, third largest in world - FSB.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage