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Niger: Preliminary Draft Constitution Prepared

(Sept. 9, 2010) On September 2, 2010, Niger's ruling Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy released a description of a new, draft constitution for the country. Among the reforms this draft includes, compared with earlier versions, are the lifting of the requirement for candidates for the presidency to have university decrees and the lowering of the minimum age of eligibility for the office to 35. The previously envisioned upper age limit of 70 has been deleted. The presidential term of office will be for five years, with the office holder eligible to seek re-election for only one additional term. (Amnesty for Coup Plotters Amongst Draft Constitution Proposals, RADIO FRANCE INTERNATIONALE (Sept. 3, 2010), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201009031477.1_26e50034b40405c0.)

In addition, the text allots special powers to the President in exceptional cases and extends amnesty to participants in the February 2010 coup that overthrew then President Mamadou Tandja. (Id.)

Citizens would no longer be able to initiate laws through a petition process under the draft, although Title 1 of the document says that referenda can be held as a way for the people to exercise power. The draft also states that the chair of the Constitutional Court will not be someone also serving as a member of the Council of the Republic, a body set up under the Constitution and comprising the heads of the major government bodies of all branches of government. (Program Summary, NIAMEY TELE SAHEL (Niamey, Niger) (Sept. 2, 2010), Open Source Center online subscription database, Doc. No. AFP20100903670006.)

According to Colonel Abdoulkarim Goukoye, a spokesperson for the Supreme Council, the draft will be circulated throughout Niger before it is submitted to a referendum. (Military Junta Makes Changes to Niger's Draft Constitution, BBC WORLD SERVICE (Sept. 3, 2010),
; Program Summary, supra.) Goukoye commented on the reasoning behind some of the provisions, explaining that the education requirement was dropped for the presidency because “the position of president of the republic was sacred” and because the most important factor was popular legitimacy. (Program Summary, supra.) Elections are planned for February 2011, a year after the coup that overthrew President Mamadou Tandja. (BBC WORLD SERVICE, supra.)