News24

Niger politicians want poll list fixed

2010-11-24 22:56

Niamey - Niger's main political parties have called on the country's election commission to clear up errors on the country's voter register which otherwise risk undermining a poll meant to restore civilian rule.

The uranium-exporting nation adopted a new constitution in a referendum earlier this month, but electoral lists are increasingly being contested in African elections and changes must be done before local and presidential polls in January.

The elections are meant to seal the return to democracy after the ousting by the military last February of President Mamadou Tandja, who himself had altered the constitution to stay in power beyond his original two-term limit.

"The (election) list has many problems, some of which are fairly serious," Mahamane Sani, a senior member of the CFDR group, which opposed Tandja before he was toppled, told journalists in the capital Niamey.

Sani cited discrepancies in numbers of eligible voters, differences of details between voter lists and electoral cards, and confusion over the number of voting stations.

Sani was speaking late on Tuesday after a number of political parties held a meeting with the election commission to air their concerns.

"We told (them) to correct the errors so that we are reassured over the quality of the election list that we are going to elections with," he said.

Serious problems

Rows over voter lists, who is eligible to vote and how many polling stations have fuelled rows in a number of recent elections in West Africa, including Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Abdoulkarim Mamalo, a member of the AFDR coalition that backed Tandja, said the problems were serious and the political class unanimous in its rejection of the status quo.

"The stakes of a referendum are one thing but those surrounding an election are something else," he told journalists.

"We have asked the election commission to ensure that this list is cleaned up, secured and not tampered with before the next elections."

With a deadline to restore civilian rule by April 6, Niger's military rulers are due to hold local elections on January 8 followed by a presidential and parliamentary vote on January 31.

The soldiers who seized power appear, for now, intent on restoring civilian rule, but they have had to contend with a food crisis and spike in activity by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda in the nation's Saharan north.

A poor, desert nation, Niger has attracted billions of dollars of investment in uranium mining, mainly from French nuclear giant Areva , while China National Petroleum Corp is developing oil fields in the southeast.