Niger will hold the first round of its presidential elections, coupled with legislative elections, on December 27 of this year; local and regional elections will come two weeks earlier, on December 13.
The ruling part’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, has been in unofficial campaign mode since he left government on June 29. He has been touring the entire country to rally the Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme (Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, PNDS-Tarayya). Here is one of his latest stops, from the Maradi Region in south central Niger:
So what is supposed to happen, logistically, between now and December 27? A really useful starting point for understanding the Nigerien political system is the Trans-Saharan Elections Project at the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group, which has pages detailing different countries’ systems – here is the page for Niger.
Another useful resource is this calendar from Niger’s Independent National Electoral Commission (French acronym CENI). I am using the version uploaded to their site on August 6, with a file name dated July 28, so I believe it is fairly current/accurate. Here, according to the calendar, are the key upcoming dates:
- The main logistical issue at present is the finalization of “biometric electoral lists,” the enrollment of citizens/voters, and the distribution of biometric voter cards. The “definitive Biometric Electoral File” is meant to be published in Niger’s Official Journal on September 4, and distribution of cards is scheduled to begin on September 17 (p. 8). As in other cards, this process has been controversial; the president of CENI, Issaka Souna, gave a press conference on August 30 to address “rumors…that the Commission had turned its back on the Biometric Electoral File and particularly on the biometric voter’s card.”
- Other preparations in summer and fall involve the training of the electoral corps, the selection of members of voting bureaus, etc.
- By December 1: The Constitutional Court publishes the definitive list of candidates for the first round of the presidential elections.
- By December 2: After validation by the Constitutional Court, the government publishes the list of candidates for the legislative elections.
- December 2-11: The official campaign period for the regional and communal elections.
- December 5-25: The official campaign period opens for the presidential and legislative elections.
- December 13: Voters cast ballots in regional and communal elections.
- Between December 13 and 19: Proclamation of provisional results for regional and communal elections.
- Between December 20 and January 18, 2021: Proclamation of final results for regional and communal elections.
- December 27: Voters cast ballots for presidential and legislative elections.
- By January 1, 2021: CENI publishes provisional results for presidential and legislative elections.
- Between January 2 and January 30: Constitutional Court announces definitive results for the first round of the presidential elections.
- Between January 2 and January 31: Constitutional Court announces definitive results for the legislative elections.
- January 29 (if relevant): The official campaign period opens for the second round of the presidential elections.
- February 19: Official campaign period closes.
- February 21: Voters cast ballots for the second round of the presidential elections.
- Between February 22 and February 26: CENI announces provisional results of the second round.
- Between February 27 and March 26: The Constitutional Court publishes the final results of the second round.
What stands out to me is the complexity of the calendar – any electoral calendar is necessarily going to be complex, but to ask voters to come to the polls twice in two weeks seems fated to cut into turnout on one or both of the voting days. As noted in a previous post, insecurity in western and southeastern Niger may also complicate things, on multiple levels. First, although the presidential election date is highly unlikely to change, and although I wouldn’t expect the legislative election date to change, the same does not hold true for local and regional elections – Nigerien authorities have already suggested that under the state of emergency in the Tillabéry Region in the west, some elections may be delayed. Second, insecurity will undoubtedly limit some voters’ access to polling places – not necessarily because jihadists, bandits, or others directly attempt to close voting centers or block voters’ access (although that may happen, as in central Mali in 2018) – but just because violence and uncertainty will dampen some people’s enthusiasm/willingness for undertaking the necessary travel/risk. Third, you have the closely related issue of displacement. As of July 31, according to UNHCR and Nigerien government data, there are over 265,000 people internally displaced in Niger. That’s a lot of voters, or would-be voters, who may have difficulty casting ballots due to logistical and/or security reasons.
Another thing that stands out to me is the combination of (a) the relatively late date for finalizing the list of candidates and (b) the relatively wide timeframes available to authorities for publishing final results. I don’t think Nigerien authorities will hold back results until the end of those timeframes, but there are, so to speak, ample opportunities for authorities to shape the elections and their outcome on both the front end and the back end of the process.