News24

50% turnout in Niger polls

2011-02-01 22:34

Niamey - Roughly 50% of Niger's 6.7 million registered voters cast their ballots in presidential and legislative elections meant to end military rule, the electoral commission said on Tuesday.

"According to our own estimates, the nationwide turnout was around 50%" in Monday's vote, Gousmane Abdourahamane, the head of the national independent electoral commission, told AFP.

"In cities such as Niamey, the turnout must be lower [than 50%]. Voting was especially heavy in rural areas," he added.

Abdourahamane said the first provisional results were expected to come in later on Tuesday.

Voters chose among 10 candidates, including three former allies of deposed ex-president Mamadou Tandja and a longtime opponent of the former leader.

Chief among them is opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou of the Social Democratic Party. He faces a challenge from three other candidates.

They include Seini Oumarou, the anointed follower of Tandja and whose National Movement for the Development of Society he leads.

The others are ex-prime minister Hama Amadou, who is also close to the deposed leader while Niger's first democratically elected president in 1993, Mahamane Ousmane, is trying for another term.

Oumarou, Amadou and Ousmane have created a stir by forging a pact meant to deny Issoufou victory should no candidate emerge with an overall majority and the presidential poll goes to a second round, scheduled for March 12.

In the event one of them finds himself in a head-to-head battle against the social democrat the other two will give him their full backing.

Tandja is following the vote from prison, where he was transferred in mid-January from house arrest on allegations of financial misappropriation.

The military seized power last year to end a crisis triggered by Tandja's attempts to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limits.