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Tandja

Tandja

Tandja, Mamadou, 1938-, Nigerien political leader, president of Niger (1999-), b. Maine-Soroa. He attended military schools in Madagascar and Mali, joining the army in the mid-1950 and rising to the rank of colonel. In 1974 he was part of a coup that brought General Seyni Kountché to power. Tandja subsequently served as prefect of the Tahoua and Maradi regions, ambassador to Nigeria, and minister of the interior, as well as commander of several army garrisons. He retired from the army in 1991 to head the National Movement for the Development of Society. He made unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1993 and 1996 before being elected in 1999; he was reelected in 2004. Under Tandja, Niger has experienced a period of relative economic and social stability, but his insistence on holding a referendum on his running for a third term, which was ruled illegal by the constitutional court, led in 2009 to his rule by decree and his dismissal of parliament and the court. The vote in favor of ending term limits and extending his current term by three years was denounced by the opposition was rigged.

Colonel (ret.) Tandja Mamadou (born 1938 in Maïné-Soroa, Niger) is a Nigerien politician and current President, as well as the chairman of economic organization ECOWAS. His name is sometimes reported as "Mamadou Tandja," which is not used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

President Tandja is said to be of Fula and Kanuri ancestry. He is the first president of Niger who is not ethnically Hausa or Djerma.

1974 coup, the Kountché regime, and the MNSD

Tandja participated in the 1974 coup that brought Seyni Kountché to power and became a member of the Supreme Military Council. He became prefect of Maradi in 1976 before being named Minister of the Interior on September 10 1979, serving in that position until being replaced by Kountché himself on August 31 1981. He was then prefect of Tahoua from 1981 to March 1988, ambassador to Nigeria from June 1988 to March 1990, and Minister of the Interior again from March 1990 to March 1991.

In 1991, Tandja emerged as the head of one of two powerful factions in the ruling National Movement of the Development Society (Mouvement National pour la Societé de Développement, MNSD), and at a party congress held in November 1991, he was elected as MNSD President. Tandja's obtaining of the party leadership over rival faction leader Moumouni Adamou Djermakoye marked a departure from the traditional dominance of the party by Djermakoye's Zarma (Djerma) ethnic group.

1993 election

Tandja ran for President in the elections of 1993, taking first place in the first round in February with 34.22% of the vote, but then losing to Mahamane Ousmane in the second round in March, taking 45.58% of the vote. Tandja accepted the results and congratulated Ousmane.

Tandja participated in an opposition protest against the government of the Alliance of the Forces of Change ruling coalition on April 16 1994 and was arrested along with 90 others. Ousmane was overthrown in a military coup led by Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara on January 27, 1996.

1996 election

Under Maïnassara, a new presidential election was held on July 7–8, 1996, in which Tandja ran again; this time he took third place with 15.65% of the vote, behind Maïnassara with about 52% and Ousmane with about 20%. On the second day of polling he was placed under house arrest along with the other three opposition candidates and held for two weeks. Following a pro-democracy demonstration on 11 January 1997, Tandja was arrested along with Ousmane and former Prime Minister Mahamadou Issoufou and held until 23 January.

1999 election and first term

In April 1999, Maïnassara was assassinated and a new military government led by Major Daouda Malam Wanké took over. This junta promised a return to democracy within the year, and the elections were held in October and November. Tandja won the presidential election, receiving first place, with 32% of the vote, in the first round, and 59.89% in the second round, defeating Issoufou. Tandja received the backing of Ousmane in the second round. The MNSD also won the most seats in the parliamentary election in November 1999 and Tandja himself was elected to the National Assembly as an MNSD candidate from Diffa constituency, although due to his concurrent election as President his seat was filled by his substitute, Nassourou Samaila. He took office as President on December 22, 1999. He appointed Hama Amadou as Prime Minister in January 2000.

Niger was heavily in debt and was not receiving any foreign aid due to the 1996 coup and subsequent suspension of democratic institutions. Tandja focused on economic development, negotiating with the civil service unions and with foreign donors. Many did not approve of Tandja's measures in reducing government spending. In 2001, students at the University of Niamey staged violent protests against the reduction of their government grants. On July 31 2002, some soldiers in Diffa started a mutiny demanding pay and improved living conditions; this briefly spread to Niamey a few days later. Loyalists defeated the mutineers and restored peace by August 9, but Tandja came under political fire for his decrees blocking communication about the rebellion.

2004 election and second term

Tandja was a candidate for re-election in the 2004 presidential election. In the first round of the election, held on November 16, he took first place with 40.7% of the vote, the rest being divided between five opponents. As in 1999, Mahamadou Issoufou took second place, and he participated in a runoff with Tandja on December 4. Tandja was re-elected with 65.53% of the vote, with Issoufou receiving the remaining 34.47%. All four of the defeated first round candidates supported Tandja in the second round. He was sworn in for his second term on December 21 at a ceremony at the Général Seyni Kountché Stadium in Niamey, which was attended by six other African presidents.

Although there had been speculation about a possible constitutional change to enable Tandja to run again in 2009, he said in an interview with Le Monde, published on October 6 2007, that he intended to step down at the end of his second term.

References

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