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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 16:34 UK

Tense Niger set for August poll

File pic of Niger's President Mamadou Tandja
Mamadou Tandja says the people of Niger want him to stay

Niger's electoral commission has set parliamentary elections for 20 August - two weeks after the proposed date for a controversial referendum.

President Mamadou Tandja dissolved parliament in May, after a court ruled that his referendum plan was illegal.

The referendum asking whether the president should be able to seek a third term in office has divided Niger.

The Constitutional Court has twice ruled that the referendum cannot be held unless it is passed by parliament.

But the BBC's Idy Baraou in the capital, Niamey, says it will be difficult for Mr Tandja's supporters to gain the three-quarters of parliamentary seats they need to pass a referendum bill.

One of the president's main allies, former Prime Minister Hama Amadou, on Friday announced that he was forming his own party.

Another party in his ruling coalition left three weeks ago over the third term issue.

'Binding' ruling

The president has not yet publicly commented on the latest court ruling, which was made on 12 June.

But our reporter says that state-controlled TV, which is seen as a government mouthpiece, has strongly condemned the ruling that banned the referendum scheduled for 4 August.

Moumouni Hamadou, chairman of the National Independent Electoral Commission (Ceni), on Friday told Radio France Internationale that the ruling was "clear - it binds all public and military authorities".

"The Ceni has therefore decided to head straight for an early legislative election," he said.

Mr Tandja was first elected in 1999. His supporters say he has brought economic growth and so has deserved the right to seek re-election.



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