Niger Elections: So Far, So Good?

Yesterday Niger held presidential and legislative elections, a key step in its return to civilian rule after last February’s military takeover. Anglophone and Francophone media characterized the elections as largely peaceful, though claims of fraud surfaced.

Bloomberg gives a view from Niamey:

Polling stations closed at 7 p.m. local time, said Illiassou Moumouni, a spokesman with the country’s electoral commission. In the capital city, Niamey, turnout was between 45 percent and 51 percent, he said. Results may start being published [today]. The nation’s 6.5 million registered voters chose from 10 presidential candidates seeking to replace junta leader Djibo Salou, a former head of an artillery squadron who ousted President Mamadou Tandja last year.

“I have a sense of great satisfaction and hope,” Salou, who is not on the ballot, told reporters after voting in the capital. “It is a new beginning for Niger.”

In Niamey, “no discrepancies were found in the polling stations checked,” said Ousmane Abdoulaye, an observer with a coalition of four local civil society groups.

Turnout does not seem to have been high, but was not so low that it will damage the credibility of the elections.

Peace also apparently held across almost all of the country. VOA has a report of peaceful voting from Maradi, another major Nigerien city. Reuters notes that “the only serious disturbance [was] reported in Tassara in the northeast, where security sources said some polling stations were attacked.”

Reuters goes on, however, to describe claims of fraud:

The election commission said at the weekend it had been informed fake voter identification cards were sold before the poll, without saying how many, while eight of the election’s 10 candidates had called in vain for the postponement of the vote to allow time for better preparation.

“I voted, but in a spirit of doubt and disappointment,” said one of the candidates, former premier Hama Amadou, after casting his ballot in the capital Niamey.

Despite these reports it seems that many are pleased with how the elections went, both inside Niger and internationally. We will see how candidates react once results appear.

Western news outlets are showing a consensus about the three front-runners, which “include former Tandja prime ministers, Seini Oumarou and Hama Amadou, as well as Mahamadou Issoufou, the longtime anti-Tandja leader whose party dominated local and regional elections earlier this month.” You can read more on all ten candidates here.

As the Bloomberg story quoted above says, some results could appear as early as today, but it could take a week before the electoral commission announces the full results. It is quite possible that no candidate will claim a decisive majority in this round, in which case another round will take place on March 14.

For those of you who read French, Tamtaminfo describes the military junta’s actions yesterday and quotes several government officials on the vote. On Twitter, Niger Elections and Tommy Miles have great coverage.

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