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Niger: Constitutional Court stands firm

Niger's Constitutional Court rejected President Tandja's attempt to hold a referendum in August over a proposed rewrite of the constitution to bypass term limits. The Court held, inter alia, that the procedural rules for delcaring a referendum had not been followed. Article 135 of Niger's Constitution is fairly clear, in that a referendum is to be held only upon the failure to secure a 4/5 vote in the legislature. Tandja, knowing he might not secure that majority, decreed the August referendum unilaterally.

Tandja's reaction remains to be seen. We may be in one of the rare moments when a court decision prevents a power hungry leader from acting in an unconstrained faction. Much of the time, of course, we do not observe such powerful court decisions, in part because the legislature or executive may avoid nconstitutional actions in the shadow of strong enforcement. But the Niger case allows us to watch the dynamics in real time...

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