Niger to Adopt New Constitution? [Updated]

The people of Niger headed to the polls on Sunday to vote in a referendum on adopting a new constitution. Amidst slight logistical problems and tight security, the vote apparently proceeded peacefully but with low turnout in some parts of the country. The measure appears almost certain to pass.

The proposed constitution contains provisions to schedule elections in January, ban military personnel from contesting elections, grant immunity to members of the current military junta, set term limits for the presidency, and increase transparency around government reporting of oil and mining revenues. Some Muslim organizations in Niger have opposed the constitution’s passage, arguing against the document’s secularism.

Reuters says that early reports indicate overwhelming support for the constitution, but turnout figures fell below 50%.

“‘Yes’ takes it with at least 90 percent of the vote,” Gousmane Abdouramane, the president of the electoral commission, said on state radio.

He said the provisional tally was based on results from 70 of Niger’s 266 communes and that a reading from the remaining communes would be available on Tuesday.

[…]Abdouramane said voter turnout appeared to range between 30 and 50 percent, a level he said was substantial enough to provide a meaningful result. However the junta had said it wanted to see turnout at a much higher 70 percent.

We may get full results today, in which case I will update this post. In the meantime, it seems nearly certain that the constitution will become law. That will allow the country to keep moving toward elections and a return to civilian rule. But does this result reflect the will of the majority of the electorate?

[UPDATE]: Commenter Canyen points us to this AFP article which has new numbers:

Niger’s people gave a draft new constitution an overwhelming 90 percent yes vote in Sunday’s referendum, according to complete provisional results published Tuesday by the electoral commission.

“The ‘yes’ gathered 3,124,152 votes, that is 90.18 percent,” against 9.82 percent for the ‘no’, the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Gousmane Abdourahamane, said in Niamey.

The vote opens the way to an end to military rule in the poor west African country, with a presidential election and parliamentary polls scheduled for January 31 next year. A handover of power is planned for April.

The turnout reached 52.65 percent of about 6.7 million registered voters, he added, during a ceremony at the Congress Palace attended by government members and diplomats.

Abdourahamane hailed a “major mobilisation of the electorate.”

The “provisional global results” will be passed on “as of Wednesday to the Constitutional Council” for validation and proclamation as the definitive results, Abdourahamane told AFP.

As Canyen says, the fact that turnout passed the 50% mark helps legitimate the results. Now the government and citizens of Niger can turn their attention toward the implementation of the constitution and to the elections in January.


3 thoughts on “Niger to Adopt New Constitution? [Updated]

  1. Alex,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog recently, and I think that you provide excellent analysis on Sahel issues. For a first-time comment, I have a question:

    In your opinion, do you think that the transition of power will go smoothly next April? It appears that the junta is committed to free elections, especially considering the referendum will provide amnesty for the coup leaders. But the region also has an unfortunate trend of delaying such transfers of power (ex. the South Sudan referendum and upcoming Guinea runoff elections). How do you see Niger’s transfer shaping up?

    Also, I was glad to see that such a large percentage showed up to the polls. Should add some legitimacy to the vote:

    • Thanks for stopping by and for posting this link, I’ll update the post.

      From what I know of Niger’s recent history they had a pretty smooth hand-off in 1999. I think it could go quite smoothly this time. The reports of a coup plot inside the junta were troubling, but that tension seems to be subsiding now. I think Djibo is committed to a return to civilian control. I guess it will partly depend on how the elections in January go though.

      • I agree that January’s elections should provide a good indicator of things to come. Assuming another strong voter turnout and a clear victor after one or two rounds of voting, we’ll hopefully see the return of a civilian presidency next April.

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