In Niger, the opposition is stepping up the pressure as the presidential election approaches

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Supporter of Hama Amadou, (already) candidate for the 2016 presidential election, in Niamey.

He says he has nothing more to lose and is ready to do anything to defend his political rights. Hama Amadou does not intend to see the Nigerien presidential election go ahead without him on December 27. The opposition leader announced his candidacy on September 19. But the Constitutional Court could strike him down because of his 2017 sentence to one year in prison in a sordid and controversial case. According to Nigerien justice, the leader of the Moden Fa Lumana party would have participated in a vast trafficking of babies, bought in neighboring Nigeria and sold to families in Niger.

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In 2016, during the last presidential election, this dossier had already forced him to campaign behind bars. Since that time, Mr. Amadou has continued to deny the facts, denouncing a campaign of persecution organized by the power of the current President Mahamadou Issoufou in order to prevent him from reaching the supreme office. For this election, Mr. Issoufou, who has already served two terms, chose his runner-up: Mohamed Bazoum, his former interior minister, will wear the colors of the Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS).

” Out of state of causing trouble “

“Should an application be made in accordance with the texts that govern Niger or at the head of the client, depending on the risks it represents for the PNDS? “, pretends to wonder Mr. Amadou. Before insuring: “Everything they say about me is wrong! This time, there is no way my fans and I will let them use legal tricks to get me out of the race. ” According to article 8 of the Election Code brandished by his opponents, citizens sentenced to a prison sentence of one year or more cannot be a candidate. The leader of the opposition prefers to put forward the Constitution of his country, according to which Nigeriens “Of nationality of origin”, “Enjoying their civil and political rights” are eligible for the presidency. These rights, Mr. Amadou still has them, because despite his conviction the judge did not pronounce any additional sentence to withdraw them.

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“The Constitution is explicit. Me, I was born in Niger, my parents were born in Niger ”, he adds. This claim full of innuendo targets Mr. Bazoum. For several weeks, rumors from the opposition have claimed that the majority candidate, from an Arab tribe living between Libya, Chad and Niger, was not born on Nigerian soil. Under these conditions, how can the wise Nigerians – whose neutrality Mr. Amadou questions – can accept the invalidation of his candidacy without questioning that of his opponent? The Constitutional Court has until 1er December to decide.

From his campaign headquarters, Mohamed Bazoum says he takes all these accusations with serenity: “He implies that I’m not Nigerien… It doesn’t matter to me, he just pities me, he retorts. Hama is a man who tries to blow in vain on the embers. He reduces politics to his person. We have weakened him politically. He was put out of action. “

“Electoral hold-up”

These exchanges of bird names speak volumes about the tense political climate, with less than three months before the poll. Mr. Amadou, former prime minister and former president of the National Assembly, has been the pet peeve of power for decades. Within the opposition, he retains his ability to mobilize, in the streets and at the polls. In 2016, despite a campaign waged from his cell, Mr. Amadou qualified for the second round, before ending up crushed by Mr. Issoufou: 92.5% of the votes for the current president, barely 6% for him. “False second round”, had then castigated his relatives, denouncing, like observers such as the American NGO Freedom House, irregularities such as the purchase of votes, the vote of minors or the rigging of the results.

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But the accusations were like a sword in the water. Four years later, the opposition fears that history will repeat itself. In an attempt to block the road to the majority, it has therefore chosen the path of rallying: 18 parties have come together in a new electoral alliance called Cap 21. All are committed to supporting the coalition candidate who has arrived in better shape. position in the first round with a view to the second.

Constitutional Court and Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) “Acquired” to the presidential party, electoral roll and audit “Biased”, unenlisted diaspora and supposed use of state resources to campaign ahead of time by candidate Bazoum: the opposition’s grievances are numerous. “They are preparing an electoral hold-up, denounces Ibrahim Yacouba, also a candidate and member of Cap 21. The whole process was built unilaterally by the majority with a single goal: to keep the PNDS in power. “

“Play the soft pear”

At the CENI, the president, Issaka Souna, said he was waiting with open arms for an opposition that boycotted his institution by refusing to occupy the seats allotted to him: “I regret that the political dialogue has broken down. Electoral or post-electoral crises are born out of misunderstandings and misunderstandings. “

In Niamey, some observers worry about potential disturbances fueled by an opposition that no longer seems ready for dialogue. “Until now, they thought we were going to keep playing soft pear. But it’s over. We are waiting to see if they will make the mistake of refusing my candidacy. I have nothing more to lose “, says Amadou. Nearly 70 years old, he knows this is one of his last electoral cards. Around him, the allies of Cap 21 are closing ranks. Calls to demonstrate are being considered.

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But is the opposition really capable of mobilizing a Nigerien people who seem more concerned with their economic survival than with political negotiations? Some doubt it. Mr. Amadou, on the contrary, thinks he can count on public opinion indignant at the proliferation of alleged corruption scandals. The most recent, an alleged misappropriation of funds of 76 billion CFA francs (116 million euros) in the purchase of military equipment within the defense ministry, had aroused indignation in the streets. But the demonstration organized by civil society in March was violently repressed. “Our laws are clear, citizens have the right to go out without asking for permission to protest”, insists the leader of the opposition, who warns: “What happens will be our responsibility, but largely their fault. “

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