Observers sign off on Niger poll
Niamey - European and African election observers said on Wednesday they were broadly satisfied with Niger's presidential election despite a number of technical problems, and called on candidates to respect the results.
The West African uranium-producer held a vote on Monday aimed at restoring civilian rule. There had been fears of trouble after chaotic local elections last month led candidates to call for the election commission to be sacked.
Nigeriens voted for a new president as well their members of parliament, and partial results were expected later on Wednesday.
"The election commission has, overall, managed to organise the elections despite some technical problems. The freedom of expression and movement of all candidates was respected," the European Union observer mission said in a statement.
EU observers said there had been trouble transporting voting materials to polling stations and identifying voters but that would not affect the results.
The election commission said on Tuesday there had been trouble at polling stations in Tassara, in the northeast, and Maradi, in the centre of the vast, landlocked nation.
The African Union also gave its approval of the poll.
"Despite some hitches we noticed, the AU mission is satisfied with the election process and the way in which voting took place," the body said in a statement.
The election commission said it had been told that an unknown number of fake voter identification cards had been sold ahead of voting.
A successful election would help Niger, one of the world's poorest countries which is facing a growing threat from al-Qaeda-linked groups in its desert north, step up investment in its mineral and oil resources.
West African regional grouping Ecowas said the vote had been transparent and called on the candidates and their supporters to remain calm and only challenge the results through legal channels.
A run-off will be held in March if no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round.
The military seized power last February, ousting President Mamadou Tandja, who had changed the constitution to allow himself to stay in power after his second term ran out.
Among the candidates seeking the presidency were veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou and two former prime ministers, Seini Oumarou of Tandja's MNSD party and Hama Amadou.