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France beat Argentina 23-21 in Rugby World Cup

Niger leader hopes referendum will bring civilian rule

media Map of Niger CIA

Some 6.7 million people in Niger are eligible to vote Sunday in a referendum on a new constitution aimed at starting a transition to democracy. Junta leader Salou Djibo, who led a coup d’etat against former president Mamadou Tandja in February, was the first to vote.

He called on Nigeriens to vote come out in force and vote in favour of the new constitution.

"The Seventh Republic will be a new step towards the creation of a democratic system that will bring political stability, national cohesion, social progress and economic development,” Djibo said.

The proposed constitution guarantees immunity for the leaders of February's coup and commits them to handing over power on 6 April next year.

A presidential election is scheduled for 31 January 2011. The coup leaders will not participate.

The text also reduces powers that Tandja had awarded to himself and aims to improve governance in the mining sector.

Two weeks ago, the junta’s former number two, Abdoulaye Badié, and three other military officials were arrested, accused of plotting to kill Djibo.

The electoral commission will announce provisional results by Thursday.

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