- Niger's trade unions have called on President Mamadou Tandja to back down on his plan to hold a referendum to seek a third term in government, embedded into a major reform of the Nigerien constitution.
President Tandja, who dissolved a parliament last week a day after a constitutional court rejected his attempt to change a constitution, announced last Friday that he would go ahead with plans for a referendum on a new constitution.
The unions warned that the proposed referendum could be chaotic to West African state, saying it could also threaten the country's frail democracy.
Mr Tandja, was elected to the presidency in 1999 and had promised to quit at the end of his term later this year, but somersaulted, claiming wide support from the Niger people. The constitution bans him from standing again in the elections scheduled for December 2009.
Niger's main opposition group said it sees Mr Tanjda's determination to push ahead with the referendum despite the refusal of the nation's highest court and the reluctance of parliament as being tantamount to a coup.
Last week, Niger's opposition parties were outraged by President Mamadou Tandja's decision to dissolve the parliament, vowing to stage demonstrations in protest of President Tandja's action.
President Tandja's proposed referendum and dissolution of parliament has drawn wide condemnation with both the United States and Canada expressing concern about the developments in the country.
Also the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened with sanctions should the referendum go ahead as it would violate the ECOWAS charter, saying constitutional changes cannot be effectuated less than six months before a national election. Niger is a key ECOWAS member and President Tandja personally has played a great role in the regional body.
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