NIAMEY, 28 December 2020 – Niger has started counting votes from Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections, with results expected in up to five days.
The former minister of interior, Mohamed Bazoum, flag bearer of the ruling party, is the overwhelming favorite to win and take over from outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou.
The vote, held Sunday in relative peace, is seen as Niger’s first chance in six decades to witness a smooth transfer of power since independence from France in 1960.
Bazoum, 60, has promised to stamp out corruption and to continue several of the policies of Issoufou who is stepping down after two five-year terms.
The constitution limits presidential terms to two consecutive terms of five years each.
Twenty-nine other candidates are vying for Niger’s top job.
A runoff would be organized if no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the first round of voting.
Otherwise, the country’s electoral commission (CENI), which is now counting the vote, would have to organize a runoff in February 2021 between the two top vote getters in this first round of voting.
Only the Constitutional Court has a mandate and authority to announce the final outcome of the elections.
The opposition’s strongest candidate, Hama Amadou, who finished runner-up in the last election against Issoufou, was barred from running because of a criminal conviction.
in his absence, Bazoum’s success seems in very little, if any doubt.
One of the other 28 candidates is Mahamane Ousmane, who was president in this nation of 23 million inhabitants from 1993 to 1996.
More than 40 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty or less than $1.50 per day, according to data from The World Bank Group.
Approximately 7.4 million people are registered to vote in Niger, one of Africa’s poorest countries, caught in violence that has killed hundreds of civilians over the last decade.
Niger has suffered violence on its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, from fighters linked to al-Qaeda, and on its southeastern border with Nigeria from Boko Haram militants.
Earlier this month, 27 people were killed in an attack claimed by militants of Boko Haram.