Niger court says third-term referendum unlawful

Tue May 26, 2009 12:48pm GMT

* Constitutional court says president risks breaking oath

* President Tanjda wants third term in office

By Abdoulaye Massalatchi

NIAMEY, May 26 (Reuters) - Niger's constitutional court ruled unlawful on Tuesday a planned referendum to change the constitution to allow President Mamadou Tandja to stand for a third term in office.

The government of the uranium-rich desert state said this month that the septuagenarian leader, whose second and final term expires this year, would hold a plebiscite on constitutional changes to allow him to run again in November.

"The president ... cannot seek the amendment of the constitution without violating his oath," the court said in a statement.

When the government announced Tandja's decision to seek a referendum, it said he would take the advice of the constitutional court and of parliament, but not be bound by their decisions.

Around 20,000 people took to the streets this month to protest against the plan. At the weekend, some 20 political parties and civil society groups formed an anti-referendum coalition, the Front for the Defence of Democracy (FDD).   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.