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Niger opposition lawmakers arrested for embezzlement after protesting constitution

[JURIST] Members of the Niger opposition party said Saturday that police had detained 30 former opposition lawmakers, allegedly at the behest of Niger President Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile]. The 30 former member of parliament were arrested on charges of embezzlement [AFP report], but are likely being targeted for their opposition to Tandja's dissolution of parliament [BBC report] and new constitution [JURIST report], which permits him to run for office for an indefinite number of terms. The arrested politicians, who are being held without bail, refuse to recognize Tandja's expansion of his powers. Tandja's term in office is currently slated to end [Voice of America report] on December 22.

The opposition already pledged [JURIST report] to oppose Tandja's new constitution. Among the new constitution's changes is the abolition of a presidential two-term limit, allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years [AFP report] and to run in any subsequent elections, allowing the president to appoint one third of the members [CBC report] of a newly-created Senate, and establishing a media-monitoring position that would have the authority to jail reporters thought to present a threat to the country. In the lead-up to the election, CDFR had encouraged a popular boycott of the referendum on constitutional grounds, forming the basis for its dismissal of official electoral statistics. In June, opposition leader Bazoum Mohamed of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website] accused Tandja of committing a coup d'etat [JURIST report] by annulling the West African country's Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled in May that plans to hold a referendum on allowing a third term were unconstitutional. Tandja responded to the ruling by dissolving parliament and assuming emergency powers.

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