Niger, which experienced a military coup last year, will return to democracy (by April) after holding presidential and legislative elections on January 31. Major candidates recently asked for a delay until February 20 “because of problems with local elections held earlier this month,” but the military leadership has refused, saying elections must proceed as scheduled. The winner must achieve a clear majority in the first round, otherwise a second round will take place on March 14.
Via Wikipedia, Tamtaminfo (Fr) has a list of the ten candidates approved to run in the elections: Mahamadou Issoufou, Mahamane Ousmane, Seyni Oumarou, Hama Amadou, Amadou Boubacar Cissé, Amadou Cheiffou, Moussa Djermakoye Moumouni, Ousmane Issoufou Oubandawaki, Bavard Mariama, Gamatie Hamidou, and Abdoulaye Amadou Traore. In 2004, the date of Niger’s last presidential elections, four of these candidates competed: Mahamadou Issoufou (scored 25% in round one, 34% in round two), Mahamane Ousmane (17% in round one), Amadou Cheiffou (6% in round one), and Moussa Djermakoye Moumouni (6% in round one). They lost, of course, to former President Mamadou Tandja, whom the coup deposed.
In fact, many of the candidates have prior political experience, and in some ways the list reads as a roll call of the last two decades of leaders in Niger: Mahamane Ousmane was President from 1993 to 1996 and President of the National Assembly from 1999 to 2009. Amadou Boubacar Cissé was Prime Minister for two brief stints in the mid-1990s. Amadou Cheiffou acted as Prime Minister during an earlier democratic transition in Niger, serving from 1991 to 1993. Seyni Oumarou, an ally of Tandja’s, was Prime Minister from 2007 to 2009 and President of the National Assembly from November 2009 until the coup. Djermakoye and Oubandawaki have also held important political posts. Niger will therefore likely have significant continuity even in the midst of transition.
It seems difficult to predict what will happen. With such a crowded field, it seems likely to me that the elections will go to a second round, but beyond that I do not have a strong sense of how these candidates will fare. An opposition alliance called the Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic (CFDR) took over 280 of 397 seats in local elections earlier this month, “with former Prime Minister Hama Amadou’s MDN party leading with 104 of those seats, according to the provisional results. Tandja’s MNSD party took 91 of the seats.” That would seem to make Amadou a contender along with Issoufou. Still, in the midst of a transition it seems possible that there will be upsets or unexpected twists. I welcome whatever information or perspectives readers would like to share.
Regarding logistical issues, the local elections reportedly had serious problems, and obviously candidates were worried about the more of the same when they called for a delay. Still, it seems the military leadership is eager to complete the transition quickly. Based on the outcome of the local elections, I get the feeling that whoever wins will be able to establish legitimacy, though serious complaints may occur from the losing candidates. How the junta and the victor negotiate the fallout from the elections will help shape the transition.
Seven of the 10 contenders for Niger’s presidency in the Jan. 31 vote agreed to support a single candidate in any run-off election, Amadou Boubacar Cisse, a spokesman for the group, announced today.
The Alliance for National Reconciliation will also support each other in the legislative elections, Cisse said.
Looks like many of these candidates also expect the elections to go to a second round.
[UPDATE 2]: Commenter Matt Megill has posted a link to a telephone poll of Nigerien voters (Hausa) conducted by Omega Intelligency (Fr), a firm headquartered in Niamey. As Matt says, the poll has Mahamadou Issoufou in the lead with 46% far ahead of 2nd place, Mahamane Ousman second with 26%, and Cheiffou Amadou third with 24%. If the results are dead-on accurate, this poll would also indicate the likelihood of a run-off.