Voters in Niger are going to the polls in the first parliamentary elections since President Mamadou Tandja forced through changes to increase his power. niger

He has been criticised for introducing a new constitution earlier this year enabling him to stand for a third term.

Mr Tandja has also been attacked for dismissing the previous parliament and dissolving the country’s highest court.

The opposition is boycotting the election. West African regional body Ecowas had called for a postponement.

But on Tuesday, Nigerien Communications Minister Kassoum Moctar insisted that the election would be held.

In August, the 71-year-old president enraged his critics by holding a referendum to approve his plan to extend his term in office.

The proposal was approved by a landslide.

Opposition groups say Mr Tandja wants to hold on to power for life, and has scheduled the election to give his rule a veneer of legitimacy.

Ecowas delegates held a four-hour meeting with Mr Tandja over the weekend to persuade him to delay the election, but the talks ended without agreement.

Six million people are eligible to vote to elect a new 113-member parliament, but correspondents say the campaign has been marked by indifference among residents.

Mr Tandja was first elected president in 1999 and won re-election in 2004.


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