Niger Ruling Party Candidate, Ex-President in Runoff Vote

Niger’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum failed to secure half of ballots in the presidential election, forcing him into a February runoff against former head of state Mahamane Ousmane.

Bazoum got 39% of votes in the Dec. 27 poll, while Ousmane won 17%, according to a statement from the Independent National Electoral Commission on Saturday. A majority, 69%, of the more than 7.4 million people registered to vote in the country cast their ballots.

Preliminary results from parliamentary elections held the same day showed the ruling party, Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme - Tarayya, won 80 seats in the 171-member National Assembly. The main opposition party, Mouvement Democratique Nigerien pour une Federation Africain, secured 19 seats.

Bazoum, a former interior minister, is the favored successor of the ruling party of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who’s stepping down after completing two five-year terms. Niger, Africa’s second-largest uranium producer, has seen four coups since independence from France in 1960.

The second vote will be held Feb. 21.

An opposition coalition known as CAP 20-21, which includes Ousmane’s party, has accused the ruling party of electoral fraud without providing any proof. An African Union election observer mission said the vote was largely “satisfactory” and there were no major incidents.

The new president will have to contend with escalating attacks from Islamist militants that killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians last year, widespread poverty and food insecurity. Niger is the world’s least-developed country among 189 ranked by the United Nations Development Program, and has one of the highest birthrates, with each woman having more than seven children on average.

Bazoum, who turned 61 on Friday, has vowed to end the insurgency, fight state corruption and push for girls to attend secondary school if elected.

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