Niger polls postponed yet again

2010-09-14 18:03

Niamey - Long awaited presidential and legislative polls in coup-hit Niger have been postponed by nearly a month to January 31, the election commission announced on Tuesday.

The first round of the election was due to have taken place on January 3, as part of a process of returning the west African country to civilian rule after a coup last February 18 during a political crisis.

"We were confronted with a problem of internal organisation and of financial means. Now that we have the means, there will be no more problems," the head of the independent national electoral commission (CENI), Ghousmane Abdourahmane, told AFP.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, with only uranium for a natural resource, and depends on foreign donors for funds. Its people are also at the mercy of food shortages and, this year, devastating floods.

"The first round of the presidential election will take place on January 31 and will be combined with parliamentary elections," Abdourahmane said.

'Definitive' new calendar

If there is a need for a second round, it will take place on March 12 2011, instead of January 14, he added. "This new calendar is definitive and the election dates will not be postponed again."

The swearing in of a new president is planned for April 6 2011, instead of March 11. The military junta led by General Salou Djibo had pledged to restore power to elected civilians next March.

The junta, which calls itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, ousted president Mamadou Tandja, who had tried to cling to power beyond the end of his second mandate and plunged the country into crisis.

Tandja has been under house arrest since the coup, while the military has co-operated with civilian institutions in order to pave the way for a handover of power.

Local elections announced for November 1 2010, have been put off until January 8 2011.

However, the CENI has kept the date for a constitutional referendum, due on October 31.

At the beginning of September, Djibo's junta accepted a draft constitution presented to it in an almost definitive version drawn up by a consultative council, which represents the civic forces of the nation.

The voting commission presented its new electoral calendar to the council and political figures last week during a meeting in Niamey.

It was finally decided that Nigerien residents abroad would not be given an opportunity to vote.

According to the CENI, a census and voting operations for people abroad would have cost €7.6m, which was considered too expensive.

For the electoral process as a whole, the commission has drawn up a global budget of about €45.7m, of which the international community was to consecrate two-thirds.