Niger’s 7.4 million registered voters return to the polls on Sunday in a presidential run-off to elect a president between the two front runners from the 27 December first-round vote.
Sixty one-year-old Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism who is seen as outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou’s chosen successor, had secured 39.3 per cent of votes in the first round of voting on December 27, well ahead of his closest rival, Mahamane Ousmane, 71, at 16.9 per cent.
Bazoum held key ministries in Issoufou’s cabinet and is widely seen as the favourite against Ousmane. The 71-year-old in 1993 won Niger’s first multiparty elections but was overthrown three years later in a coup and has since failed to regain the presidency.
The second round became inevitable because none of the 30 candidates in the first round got more than 50% of the votes required by the constitution to win the presidency.
The vote will complete Niger’s three-month-long electoral cycle that kicked off in early December with local elections and is also expected to usher in the country’s first peaceful transition of power between freely elected leaders.
The West African country is notorious for political instability, including military coups. It currently endures crises related to climate change and insecurity from militant groups, including Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa.
Nigeria’s former Vice-president Namadi Sambo is heading the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to the election.