NIAMEY, 23 February 2021 – Mohamed Bazoum, 61, has won Niger’s presidential runoff, the west African country’s electoral commission announced Tuesday.
Bazoum, a former foreign affairs and interior minister, was credited with 55.75 percent of the votes cast in last Sunday’s runoff, with his opponent and former Nigerien president, Mahamane Ousmane, alleging fraud.
Ousmane’s campaign issued a statement Tuesday claiming that the ballot was marred by widespread fraud, including the theft and stuffing of ballot boxes and threats against voters.
Niger’s ruling party, of which Bazoum was the flagbearer, and Bazoum’s campaign along with the electoral commission say the allegations are without merit.
“We demand the immediate suspension of the publication of these results, which do not in any way take into account the expression of the Nigerien people for change,” the statement read in part.
The campaign of the former president who was toppled in a coup in 1996 provided no evidence o the fraud it alleged in the statement.
The results announced by the electoral commission must be confirmed by the country’s constitutional court before Bazoum can be sworn in as the new leader.
Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms set out in the country’s constitution.
Observers and diplomats in Niger’s capital, Niamey, say they expect the constitutional court to uphold the provisionary results announced Tuesday by the electoral commission.
Overjoyed supporters of Bazoum greeted the announcement with car hunks, loud cheering and dancing in the streets near the campaign headquarters of the ruling party.
Some of the celebrations poured out into some streets leading to the home of the presumed president-elect.
Supporters of Ousmane reacted angrily to the results, burning used car tyres outside his campaign headquarters and in several other parts of the capital.
Riot police in Niamey fired tear gas to disperse angry Ousmane supporters from the streets Tuesday afternoon, according to news reports.
The results clear the way for Niger’s first transition from one democratically-elected president to another ever since the country won independence from France in 1960.
Seven election workers were killed Sunday during voting in the runoff when their vehicle struck a landmine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwestern part of Niger not too far from the country’s border with neighboring Niger.
The victims were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station when the vehicle hit the improvised explosive device.
Three other poll workers were seriously injured in the explosion for which no group has claimed responsibility so far.
Nigerian security forces are regularly obliged to fight off attack, including suicide bomb attacks, by Islamist militants.
Dargol, situated 50 miles from Niger’s border with Mali, is one of the hotbeds of the attacks by insurgents.
In one of the worst attacks in the border area in recent memory, over 100 civilians were killed in an attack last January.
After posting a 3.9 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2019, Niger’s economy was strained throughout 2020 by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Niamey expanded spending on health and social assistance in an effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 even as the pandemic had adverse impact on international trade and foreign direct investment flows to the country.
Niger’s faces deteriorating security conditions and remains very vulnerable to climate shocks and fluctuations in global non-oil commodity prices, according to the World Bank Group.