Opposition warns no easy poll victory for Niger 'Lion'

2016-02-22 22:22
Niger's veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou casts his vote at a polling station in the election which he won. (Seyllou, AFP)

Niger's veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou casts his vote at a polling station in the election which he won. (Seyllou, AFP) (Seyllou)

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Niamey - Niger's opposition warned there would be no easy victory at the polls for incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou despite his vow of a first-round "knockout" blow, as voting continued on Monday for a second day.

"There will be a second round," said a spokesperson for former premier Seini Oumarou, one of the leading opposition candidates.

Known as the "Zaki" or "Lion" in Hausa, the majority language in Niger, Issoufou is seeking a second five-year term.

In an interview with AFP last week, the 63-year-old leader said he was "absolutely" confident of a swift victory in Sunday's first round of the poll.

"If [Issoufou's] knockout blow fails, that will be a victory for us and a setback for him, because he made a point" of pledging a quick outright win, said Oumarou's spokesperson Moussa Harouna.

Should he fail to win a first-round victory, his rivals, who have accused him of planning to rig the result, have agreed to unite behind whoever scores highest among them for the second round run-off.

In the capital Niamey, long a bastion of jailed former prime minister Hama Amadou, several sources said he picked up most votes in Sunday's first round.

The former premier and parliament speaker campaigned for the election from behind bars after being arrested in November over his alleged role in a baby-trafficking scandal.

"As promised, he will go from prison to the presidency," a spokesperson for Amadou said.

"The results are beyond our expectations. We aren't just confident: we are very, very, very confident".

'Bad job'

On Sunday night, polling stations stayed open late into the night due to voting delays.

After ballot papers failed to be delivered in some areas on time, voting took place for a second day in parts of the vast nation, such as Agadez in the north, southern Zinder and Tahoua in the west.

Oumarou's spokesman Harouna accused the national election commission of "doing a bad job", adding: "We are waiting for the reports from representatives on the ground... but the constitutional court will have work to do."

In Bosso in the southeast of Niger, armed men tried to take control of polling stations, he claimed.

Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou lashed out at the opposition's allegations.

"The elections are free and transparent. The proof of this is the fact that the opposition is ahead in Niamey. If we wanted to stage a hold-up, why wouldn't we have done so in Niamey?" Massaoudou said.

"They're talking nonsense. We're going to win a legitimate victory."

Though blessed with an abundance of uranium, oil, coal and oil, Niger is one of the poorest nation's on the planet.

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:    mahamadou issoufou  |  niger  |  west africa

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