Niger's opposition lifts boycott of parliament

2016-04-18 16:02
FILE: A man gets ready to cast his ballot during elections in Niamey, Niger.  (Gael Cogne, AP)

FILE: A man gets ready to cast his ballot during elections in Niamey, Niger. (Gael Cogne, AP)

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Niamey - Niger's opposition coalition COPA 2016 has decided to end a boycott of parliament and the national electoral commission, members said in a statement seen on Monday.

The boycott was called over a two-round presidential election in February and March in which opposition candidate Hama Amadou was forced to campaign from behind bars after being jailed in November on baby-trafficking charges he denounced as a ploy.

Incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou was returned to power with 92.51% of the votes in the second round on March 20, while Amadou was given 7.49%, despite the opposition's boycott of "an electoral sham".

The opposition had refused to accept the official result, with opposition spokesman Seini Oumarou protesting against "unfair treatment between the two candidates".

"Notwithstanding its pertinent decision not to recognise the legitimacy of the institutions arising from presidential and legislative elections (...), COPA decides to end the suspension of participation by its representatives in the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission," said a statement released to AFP on Monday.

Back in office, Issoufou proposed a national unity government, but the opposition said that any talks must concern a transition leading to a new set of "open and credible" elections.

On April 11, Issoufou appointed a government of 40 ministers, all drawn from his political party and its allies.

COPA explained its weekend U-turn by a need to "refocus [its] actions" to take "the struggle inside parliament", preventing the National Assembly from being "a mere echo chamber" for the decisions of the regime.

The opposition also decided to present candidates in local government elections on May 9 and "insists on the release of all its activists detained" since the end of 2015. Some of these prisoners have been elected to parliament.

Read more on:    niger  |  west africa

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