(AFP) – Aug 14, 2009
NIAMEY — Niger's constitutional court validated the result of a controversial referendum that handed President Mamadou Tandja a mandate to extend his rule, potentially for life.
The referendum to amend the constitution of the uranium-rich west African nation "received 92.5 percent of favourable votes. Thus it must be declared adopted," said a court decision read over state radio Friday.
The court "validated and proclaimed definitive" the results of the August 4 referendum announced three days later by the national electoral commission but strongly contested by the opposition which called for a boycott of the vote.
Commission chief Moumouni Hamidou said turnout was 68.26 percent or some 4.1 million voters.
The opposition denounced what it said was a "coup d'etat" by Tandja, and the referendum also came under attack from the international community.
Tandja, 71, has consistently claimed that his bid to cling to power was to fulfil "the will of the people."
The referendum will allow the president, in power since 1999, to remain in office beyond the December 22 end of his tenure and thereafter seek unlimited mandates.
It also beefs up the president's powers by making him the "sole holder of executive power." The president will head the army, name the prime minister and have complete control over the cabinet.
The new constitution has provision for a bicameral legislature comprising a house of representatives and a senate.
Niger currently does not have a senate.
Tandja has won accolades for bringing stability to Niger and improving the state of the economy of the world's third largest uranium producer but his plan to extend his mandate indefinitely has been slammed both at home and abroad.
The 1999 constitution limited presidential mandates to two terms.
Tandja ran into stiff opposition from both parliament and the constitutional court in his bid to extend his rule. He dissolved both, declared an emergency and began to rule by decree.
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