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
People walk in the Wipro campus in Bangalore June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe/Files

Wipro Q4 net profit beats estimates, rises 29 percent

Wipro posted a 29 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit, beating expectations, helped by increased IT spending by its customers. For the quarter ended March 31, the company said it earned 22.27 billion rupees compared with 17.29 billion rupees a year earlier.  Full Article | Full Coverage 

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Literary Giant Dies

Literary Giant Dies

Nobel winner Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism, dies at 87.  Read 

Election 2014

Election 2014

India holds biggest day of voting with BJP gaining strength  Full Article | Full Coverage 

Insider Trading

Insider Trading

Ex-Goldman director Gupta starts prison term on June 17.  Full Article 

Market Eye

Market Eye

Sensex jumps 351 points, snaps 3-day losing streak  Full Article 

Expansion Plans

Expansion Plans

Reliance Industries, HPCL Mittal plan refinery expansions.  Full Article 

S&P on India

S&P on India

S&P: India's ratings to depend on next govt econ, fiscal policies.  Full Article 

Ambitious Aim

Ambitious Aim

In green car race, Toyota adds muscle with fuel-cell launch.  Full Article 

Deal Talk

Deal Talk

Piramal to buy 20 percent stake in Shriram Capital for $334 million.  Full Article 

Bond Market

Bond Market

A star abroad, RBI boss riles bond traders at home  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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