AFP - Niger's President Mamadou Tandja Friday said he was assuming emergency powers after a failed bid to prolong his stay in office by changing the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.
The 71-year-old leader said in a television address that he was invoking "article 58 of the constitution" giving him special powers "because the independence of the country is threatened." Tandja had already run into opposition from the Constitutional Court in his attempt to hold a referendum on changing the constitution to enable him to run for a third five-year elected term in office after his mandate expires in December. Tandja, 71, first announced his referendum proposal in early May, but the opposition, the trade unions and non-governmental organisations all turned to the Constitutional Court, which on June 12 annulled the president's plan. The court's decisions are binding on the head of state, whose bid to stage the referendum has also led to street protests and strikes. Nevertheless, on Wednesday evening Tandja submitted a request to the court, asking it to retract its ruling on the grounds that it had gone beyond its competence.