UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ABIDJAN, 25 May (IRIN) - Members of minority groups in Niger have expressed concern about the proposed scrapping of a mechanism that has hitherto guaranteed their communities seats in parliament, a media source told IRIN from Niamey.
In a joint statement read out on Monday on a private radio station, members of the Toubou, Gourmantche and Arab communities said that abolishing eight special constituencies would prevent them from being adequately represented in parliament.
A law creating the special constituencies was passed in 1992 in response to calls for better minority representation. The law ensured that eight of the 83 seats in Niger's parliament went to the smallest minorities, mainly the Arab, Toubou and Gourmantche.
These three communities together make up under 2 percent of Niger's roughly 9.5 million people, most of whom are from the Hausa and Djerma ethnic groups.
In the run-up to legislative elections in 1995, some parties opposed the law but a bid to have it deemed unconstitutional was thrown out by the supreme court in 1995.
Now a technical committee set up by the government of Commander Daouda Mallam Wanke - who came to power in a 9 April coup in which then president Ibrahim Bare was overthrown and killed - has proposed the abolition of the special constituencies.
That proposal is contained in a draft electoral code it presented to the government, along with a new draft constitution, on 18 May. It is scheduled to be examined, the source said, by a consultative committee which the government created to study the draft constitution and electoral code.
This committee includes leaders of political parties, ex-presidents, prime ministers and speakers of parliament, other former government officials, representatives of human rights and other civil-society groups as well as ex-rebels, the source said.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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