afrol News, 2 November - Preliminary results from Niger's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) indicate a broad support for the country's new constitution, which aims a making Niger into "a model democracy".
Nigerien citizens were asked to give their approval to the new constitution on Sunday, with all major political forces and the ruling military junta expressing support for the constitutional change. The new constitution had been drafted by a wide-spanning commission, representing large spectres of Nigerien society.
CENI President Abdourahamane Gousmane already yesterday was able to announce that voter turnout had been relatively high at the referendum. While some urban districts had recorded a 93 percent voter turnout, more remote rural districts however saw a turnout as low as 13 percent, MR Gousmane revealed.
The slightly lower than anticipated voter turnout maybe was related to the too obvious result of the referendum. Few expected the new constitution to be rejected, as the ruling military junta has created enthusiasm for its democratisation project since it toppled increasingly authoritarian ex-President Mamadou Tandja in February.
As Mr Gousmane today could present the first preliminary results of the referendum, there were therefore no great surprises. More than 80 percent of Nigerien voters said "yes" in the referendum and less than 20 percent said "no" to the new constitution.
While the results still are preliminary, they come as great relief to the military junta headed by General Salou Djibo, showing that ex-President Tandja by now has a marginal political standing. Only political parties still supporting Mr Tandja had urged Nigeriens to vote "no".
With the new constitution approved, Niger remains on schedule to implement its democratisation process.
The approval of the constitution by popular vote as such legitimises the current junta's power and transition process. All is therefore ready to return to a constitutional order and to organise presidential and parliamentary elections on 31 January 2011.
The new constitution strengthens the parliament in Niamey at the expense of the President and government. It aims at addressing possibilities for a strong President to abuse power and develop into a dictator by balancing powers better among the legislative and the executive. It also introduces a two-chamber parliament.
The main arguments of the pro-Tandja camp for recommending a "no" vote was that the new constitution would make the impoverished country even more difficult to rule. Weakening the executive too much would be a mistake as Niger needed a strong leadership to lift it out of its chronic crisis.
Niger's junta has been hailed by international cooperation partners, including the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United States for its progressive policies and determination to reintroduce strong democratic institutions.
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