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Observers Applaud Niger Poll

Election observers in the impoverished West African nation of Niger say Saturday's election, which returned the incumbent president and his party to power, was free and fair, even though there were some problems.

The National Election Commission released election results as they came in.

Final tallies gave President Mamadou Tandja more than 65 percent in the second round runoff presidential vote, held December 4. Pro-government parties won 88 of 113 seats in the newly enlarged parliament.

Niger's National Commission of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties released its findings on the elections, saying the vote took place peacefully and with proper transparency.

The commission's spokesman said there were isolated problems, including one remote area where authorities destroyed all documents after releasing their results. They also said voting materials arrived late, as did poll workers in many areas, but that, overall, the process was satisfactory.

A group of international observers from the United States, Europe, and Africa, concluded the vote was within democratic norms. But the group's spokesman, Cheikh Sidi Mohammed Ly, also pointed out minor problems.

He said poll workers did not receive enough training to help voters understand the process and that there were too few party delegates at the polling stations.

The opposition, which campaigned on anti-corruption themes, complained that, during the campaign, the president and his party used state funds to win votes.

President Tandja, who will now begin his second term, is the first elected leader of Niger to complete a term without being assassinated or deposed. He has promised to develop the economy, which ranks among the poorest in the world.