November 1, 2010 / 3:58 PM / 8 years ago

Early tally shows Niger adopting new consitution

* Results from 70 of 266 communes show 90 pct in favour

* Turnout ranging from 30-50 pct - electoral commission

* Full provisional results expected on Tuesday

NIAMEY, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Early counting shows voters in Niger are in favour of a new constitution meant to pave the way to civilian rule, the electoral commission said on Monday, but added turnout appeared to be 50 percent or less.

Sunday’s referendum was the first in a series of votes due to end with the swearing-in of a new civilian leader by April next year, replacing a junta that toppled former President Mamadou Tandja in February.

But the poll was boycotted by some Muslim groups who complained it neglected Islam.

“‘Yes’ takes it with at least 90 percent of the vote,” Gousmane Abdouramane, the president of the electoral commission, said on state radio.

He said the provisional tally was based on results from 70 of Niger’s 266 communes and that a reading from the remaining communes would be available on Tuesday.

The new constitution seeks to undo new presidential powers that Tandja had awarded himself before being deposed, and to improve governance in the mining sector of a country that is the top supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear industry.

Influential Muslim groups in late October called on Nigeriens to boycott the referendum because the new constitution formalises a separation of powers between the state and Islam in the 98-percent Muslim country.

Abdouramane said voter turnout appeared to range between 30 and 50 percent, a level he said was substantial enough to provide a meaningful result. However the junta had said it wanted to see turnout at a much higher 70 percent.

The constitution guarantees immunity for the leaders of February’s coup and commits them to handing over power on April 6 next year, by which time a newly elected civilian president is due to have been inaugurated.

National borders were closed for the vote, which took place weeks after Niger’s junta arrested four officers accused of trying to stage a coup.

Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Giles Elgood

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