The role of term-limit extensions as a motive for constitutional change has been a consistent theme on this blog. We earlier commented on the proposal by Niger President Tandja to have a referendum on a new constitution to allow him to run again for office after his second term expires this year. That referendum is now set for August 4. While we take no position on what the voters of Niger ought to do, we do note that the timeline of less than two months is very short, given that the drafting committee for the proposed constitution has just begun its work. It seems impossible for the public to have sufficient time to analyze and debate the text before the referendum is held. Tandja has also disbanded parliament, causing protests and concern among the international community over the fate of democracy in Niger.
In other news, last week, the Philippines House of Representatives passed a resolution that would open the door for constitutional amendments. The current issue concerns the scope of foreign investment in certain sectors of the economy, but at the same time, the House has been pushing for procedural changes that would allow joint voting by both houses as a Constituent Assembly for constitutional changes. The proposal, known locally by the unfortunate nickname as Con-Ass, would allow the 200- member House to dominate the 23-member Senate. The real subtext, according to many observers, is President Arroyo’s desire to stay in office when her current term expires next year. The Constitution currently only allows one six-year term.