Niger Ruling Party’s Bazoum Wins Runoff Presidential Vote

Mohamed Bazoum, an ally of President Mahamadou Issoufou, won Niger’s runoff election, paving the way for the first transfer of power through the ballot box in the West African nation.

The ruling party’s Bazoum secured 55.7% of the vote, Niger’s electoral commission said on its website on Tuesday. Rival candidate Mahamane Ousmane, who was president from 1993 until he was overthrown in a 1996 coup, got 44.3%, it said. The commission reported voter participation of 62%.

Former interior minister Bazoum, 61, will have to contend with escalating attacks by Islamist militants, widespread poverty and food insecurity. Niger, the fifth-biggest exporter of uranium globally, is also the world’s least-developed country among 189 ranked by the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

Issoufou, 69, is stepping down after serving the two terms allowed by the constitution of a country that’s been rocked by political unrest, including four coups since it won independence from France in 1960. Bazoum has pledged to continue his policies, including the fight against groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and pushing for improved education for girls in a country where the average woman has more than seven children.

Niger, a landlocked country, has become a linchpin in the fight against jihadists and other armed groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, at the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. France has deployed troops, its largest military operation abroad, while the U.S. has a $110 million drone base in the northern city of Agadez.

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