Both main presidential candidates claim victory in Niger

Mahamane Ousmane alleges widespread fraud in election marred by violence

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Both presidential candidates in Niger have claimed a win, following an election that is supposed to lead to the country’s first democratic transition of power.

Niger’s ruling party candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, received 55.75 per cent of the second-round vote, according to the official tallies, while the main opposition candidate, Mahamane Ousmane, got 44.25 per cent.

Mr Ousmane has claimed victory, saying that “fraud” had taken place “pretty much everywhere in all of Niger’s regions”, and that some of his supporters were forced to verify the results at gunpoint.

“You have expressed your clear willingness to break with poor government, you have expressed your desire for change, for an emerging Niger. This desire for change has been expressed by your voting massively in my favour,” he said, addressing his supporters, in a video posted online.

In a statement, Mr Ousmane’s campaign manager also contested the result, saying: “We demand the immediate suspension of the publication of these results, which do not in any way take into account the expressed will of the Nigerien people for change.”

Mr Ousmane (71) served as Niger’s first democratically-elected president in the early 1990s, only to be ousted three years later during a coup. He had widespread support from a range of opposition parties, though he only got 17 per cent in the first round of elections, which took place in late December.

‘Major event’

Outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou, who is in his late 60s, served two terms and was first elected in 2011.

“I’m proud to be the first democratically elected president in our history to transfer power to another democratically elected president. It’s a major event in the political life of our country,” Mr Issoufou said after he voted on Sunday.

Mr Bazoum (61) is a former schoolteacher and comes from an ethnic Arab minority. He has served as both interior and foreign minister, and is close to Mr Issoufou. The two men formed the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) together.

Election day was marred by violence after seven members of the national electoral commission died when their vehicle ran over an explosive device. The incident took place in Gotheye village, in the Tillaberi region of western Niger. It is not clear whether it was a targeted attack or related to elections.

Niger, a landlocked French-speaking West African country of roughly 23 million people, became independent in 1960. It has since gone through a string of coups and military regimes.

The new president will have to grapple with a range of challenges, including Islamic insurgencies across the Sahel, where groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been attacking security forces and fighting for territory.