Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Niger: Long-time opponent of former president named winner of Saturday's run-off election

Anne Look | Dakar
Voice of America

Niger's electoral commission has named a long-time opponent of the former president, ousted in a military coup last February, as the winner of Saturday's run-off election.

The head of Niger's electoral commission, Abdourhamane Ghousmane, announced full provisional results for the second round of the country's presidential poll. He says veteran opposition leader, Mahamadou Issoufou, won 58 percent of votes, while rival candidate and ally of the ousted president, Seini Oumarou, won 42 percent.

Issoufou led the first round of polling in January and was the favorite for Saturday's run-off thanks to the backing of four first-round candidates. He ran on a platform of change, while Oumarou promised to continue and consolidate the efforts of the country's ex-president.

It has been more than a year since soldiers stormed the presidential palace and ousted President Mamadou Tandja, who had grown increasingly unpopular after forcing through constitutional changes to expand his powers and extend his mandate.

The country's military leaders appear to be living up to their promise to restore democracy and the presidential poll marks the last of a series of nationwide elections held since the coup.

The electoral commission did not report any major incidents with voting Saturday, where it said 48 percent of Niger's 6.7 million registered voters went to the polls, a slight drop from the first round turnout of 51 percent.

Regional election observers expressed satisfaction with the vote, which the African Union deemed fair and transparent.

African Union observer mission leader Khalil Ababacar Sall says what mattered is that here we have leaders who have done what they said they were going to do. He says Niger has organized at least five polls in the last six months. He says everyone recognized the organizational problems encountered during the early polls and made remarkable improvements that led to fewer problems during Saturday's vote.

The new constitution, voted on by referendum in October, gives soldiers until April 6th to return the country to civilian rule. Niger has had four military coups since 1974.

The constitutional court has two weeks to certify the provisional results.