DEBATES, CONTROVERSIES AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS
In Niger, there are several debates on concerning the conduct of elections. Generally, these debates reveal the deficiencies of the electoral code, which in theory, is supposed to take into account recent changes at the social level (e.g., the evolution of the population and Niger’s citizens living abroad), the political level (e.g., the funding of political parties, the rejection of party lists of candidates in legislative elections, etc.), and the administrative level (e.g., the rise from 36 to 63 in the number of Niger’s administrative departments).
Given the difficulties noted in previous elections, political and civil society leaders, as well as Niger’s development partners, have been involved in debates on a number of issues. These include: (1) electoral lists, (2) the rejection of lists of candidates in 2011, (3) the ability of Niger’s citizens living abroad to vote, and (4) the funding of political parties.
Electoral lists: Regarding voter lists, all political leaders finally agreed on the choice of a biometric system. The National Council for Political Dialogue (CNDP) has already sent to the government a memorandum for the creation of an ad hoc committee to study the issue. Niger’s political leaders are eagerly looking forward to the introduction of such a system that seems reliable and would allow the CENI to issue individual cards (that would not allow voting by proxy or personal testimony). There are currently discussions between the CNDP’s permanent Secretariat and some partners like the UNDP (United Nation Development Program) and the European Union, to mobilize the resources necessary to implement a biometric voter lists system.
Rejection of candidates in the 2011 elections: It has proven difficult to reach a consensus on the rejection of candidacies that did not comply with electoral procedures and the subsequent proposal to dissolve the National Assembly on the grounds that it is not representative enough because several major parties were not allowed to contest elections in their traditional strongholds. On the one hand, the prospects of an early election seem unpredictable for the ruling party, while the opposition parties believe they have nothing to lose. On the other hand, “small parties” (which benefited from the situation—their candidates were elected in the last legislative elections) do not wish to lose their seats in early elections which could hurt their chances of obtaining more seats in the future. In the meantime, CNDP has envisioned organizing training sessions for political parties in order to provide them with the necessary tools to comply with procedures for candidacy application so as to avoid future rejections.
The voting process for Nigeriens living abroad: There has been a debate about the ability of Niger’s citizens living abroad to vote. The plan to conduct a census of Niger’s citizens living abroad so that they can take part in the 2010-2011 elections failed. The failure was due to lack of resources and lack of time to conduct this major operation. Therefore, the possibility for Niger’s citizens living abroad to vote has been postponed until 2015.
The funding of political parties: Regarding the funding of political parties, the CNDP reached a consensus that it should be widened to include all established parties in legal standing, and not be just limited to parties with elected representatives (in the National Assembly) or elected counselors (in local government councils). In view of the difficulties faced by political parties in complying with the regulations of the Financial Court (a high court that audits and prosecutes officers of entities totally or partially funded by the Government), the CNDP’s permanent Secretariat has planned to train party staff in the management of their accounts. Additionally, to mitigate the fact that the CENI’s officials have a temporary mandate, two Deputy Secretary General positions and other technical positions were created permanently for continuity.