Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Niger’s political rights rating declined from 3 to 5 due to President Mamadou Tandja’s antidemocratic moves to extend his power, including the dissolution of the Constitutional Court and National Assembly and the holding of a referendum to eliminate term limits and postpone the next presidential election—originally due in December 2009—until 2012.
President Mamadou Tandja dissolved the National Assembly and Constitutional Court in May and June, respectively, after they stood in the way of his plan to eliminate term limits and postpone the next presidential election until 2012. The proposals were then adopted in a disputed August referendum. The government enacted a new constitution that same month, which called for the creation of a Senate and gave Tandja expanded power over the High Council for Communications, Constitutional Court, and National Assembly. Opposition parties boycotted legislative elections held in October, handing a lopsided victory to Tandja’s party. The president’s antidemocratic actions prompted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Niger’s membership following legislative elections.
In October, Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi declared an end to the Tuareg rebellion, and Tandja granted an amnesty to the rebels. Libya had led mediation efforts between the government and the rebels since August 2008, but at least one splinter group of the rebel Movement of Nigeriens for Justice (MNJ) rejected the peace deal, and the MNJ continued to demand greater Tuareg inclusion in the military and the mining sector.
Niger is not an electoral democracy. While observers considered the national polls held in 1999 and 2004 to be largely free and fair, President Mamadou Tandja’s unconstitutional moves to extend his rule in 2009 dismantled much of the country’s democratic progress.