Monday, 31 January 2011

Niger presidential election to end military rule

Voting has began, in Niger's capital city of Niamey, for presidential and parliamentary elections, which are expected to return the country to civilian rule after a military coup ousted President Mamadou Tandja in February 2010.

The country's 6.7 million registered voters will select between 10 presidential candidates, one of whom is the first female presidential hopeful, and will vote in 116 legislative elections across the country.

Opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou and two former prime ministers, Seini Oumarou and Hama Amadou, are seen as the favourites. The latter two served under Tandja, who was removed for seeking a third term and is currently in prison for alleged corruption.

A candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the vote to be elected in the first round; with 10 people in the running, a run-off is seen as likely.

The country's military ruler, Gen Salou Djibo, cast his vote early, saying that the presidential election will be "a new start for Niger" and called on the country to go to the polls, adding: "This new start should allow the authorities, freely elected by the people, to devote themselves to the development of Niger”.

Local and regional elections, held on 11th January, were marred by logistical problems, including difficulties delivering voter materials, but leader of a polling station in the capital Hamidou Galadi, said this time, "all the material is in place…we are missing nothing," and assured a peaceful turnout.

Sources: BBC News, The Canadian Press, Bloomberg, AP

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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