Accessibility links

Niger Presidential Elections Underway

Niger's five million voters are going to the polls for the first round of a presidential election.

Niger President Mamadou Tandja is running for re-election against five opponents, but he says he expects to win a majority in the first round.

His chief opponent Mahamadou Issoufou of the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism has openly criticized President Tandja saying the only way one candidate could win outright in the first round is if the elections are rigged.

Party Vice President Bazoum Mohamed says he believes the second round of elections scheduled for December 4 will be between President Tandja and Mr. Issoufou.

"Everybody knows in Niger that it is not possible for any party to win at this round," he said. "It is possible. If you consider the result of the last election, the main party in power had 32-percent. So, there will be a second round and it will probably be with the President Tandja and our candidate."

President Tandja defeated Mr. Issoufou in the last elections in 1999 and has been the first president to complete a full term of five years in office without being removed by a coup since multi-party elections were introduced more than a decade ago.

But Mr. Mohamed accuses the current government of corruption.

"These elections are important for Niger because if our party wins we will change the policy, especially the economic policy," he said. "With this government, we had a great practice of corruption. We have a system of election which is very democratic like in every western country."

President Tandja has focused on health care and education in rural areas during his time in office. Niger is a poor, land-locked country and ranks at the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index.

The other candidates include a former prime minister, the parliamentary speaker, a government minister, and the Africa Union's special envoy to Sudan.