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Niger holds referendum on constitution following coup

Niger held a referendum Sunday on whether to adopt a new constitution following February's coup [JURIST report], in which a military government replaced that of then-president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile]. If approved, the constitution would limit the powers of the president, confining officeholders to two terms and require presidential candidates to be between the ages of 35 and 70. The constitution would also formalize the separation of religion and government, grant immunity to the coup leaders and bar members of the military from running for office. Assuming passage, presidential and parliamentary elections have been scheduled for January 31 [AFP report] in order to transfer power to a civilian government by April 6 as mandated by the constitution. The constitution has faced little opposition and has not been opposed [Bloomberg report] by any of Niger's 56 political parties. The results are expected later in the week. If passed, the constitution will be the seventh since Niger's independence from France in 1960.

In February, on the same day as the coup, Niger's military leaders, called the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), suspended the country's former constitution [JURIST report] and dissolved all state institutions. The coup, which left at least three Nigerien soldiers dead, came six months after a referendum was passed abolishing presidential term limits [JURIST report] and allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years and to run in any subsequent elections. Nigerien opposition parties denounced the referendum, claiming that Tandja inflated poll numbers to support the new constitution's adoption.

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