Niger 'Lion' president to face run-off vote

2016-02-27 20:24
Niger's incumbent president Mahamadou Issoufou delivers a speech at the presidential palace in Niamey. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Niger's incumbent president Mahamadou Issoufou delivers a speech at the presidential palace in Niamey. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

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Niamey – Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou took a clear lead on Friday in the uranium-rich African nation's presidential election but will face a run-off against jailed opposition leader Hama Amadou.

The narrow win for Issoufou, who is known as the "Zaki" or "Lion" in Hausa, the majority language in Niger, came after he had vowed to secure an outright victory in the first round.

His rivals had in turn pledged to unite behind whoever scored highest among them to challenge the 63-year-old's bid for a second five-year term.

The CENI election commission said Issoufou won 48.4% of the February 21 vote, with his nearest challenger Amadou picking up 17.4%.

Amadou had campaigned from behind bars after being arrested in November over his alleged role in a baby-trafficking scandal.

Two other prominent politicians, former premier Seini Oumarou and ex-president Mahamane Ousmane, won 12.11% and 6.25% respectively.

Turnout was at 66.8%, CENI said.

Issoufou, who campaigned on pledges to boost the economy and keep the country safe from jihadist attacks, had hoped for a quick win but was a tantalising 167 000 votes short of the "knock-out" victory he had vowed.

The final round is due to be held before the end of March.

The opposition has accused the leader of corruption and of sowing discord among political parties to impose a dictatorship.

His main contender, Amadou, dubbed "the Phoenix", has been in prison since November 14 2015.

The former prime minister and national assembly president fled the county in August 2014 to escape charges in the matter but was arrested after he returned last November.

About 7.5 million people were eligible to vote in the elections, whose credibility was questioned by the opposition.

A total of 15 candidates ran for president in the impoverished country straddling the Sahara Desert, rocked over the past year by attacks by Boko Haram jihadists operating out of neighbouring Nigeria, as well as Islamist fighters in the north.

Logistical glitches

Polling stations stayed open late into the night on Sunday due to delays, and voting rolled into a second day after ballot papers failed to be delivered in some areas on time.

The African Union, which deployed 40 observers, has said it was generally satisfied with the organisation of the vote, despite the logistical glitches.

The opposition, which had already slammed "grotesque and cooked up results", has said it will unite to prevent Issoufou winning a second term.

Though blessed with an abundance of uranium, coal and oil, Niger is one of the poorest nations on the planet. It has a population of just over 19 million, and is a majority Muslim country.

Since Niger's first democratic elections in 1993, it has seen several coups and political crises.

A total of 7.5 million people were eligible to vote across the country on the edge of the Sahara desert, where security is a growing concern after attacks by jihadists from neighbouring Nigeria, Mali and Libya.

Read more on:    hama amadou  |  mahamadou issofou  |  niger

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