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Niger Politicians Forge Alliances Before March Election

  • Anne Look

Longtime opposition leader and presidential candidate Mahamadou Issoufou prepares to cast his vote in Niamey, Niger, January 31, 2011

Longtime opposition leader and presidential candidate Mahamadou Issoufou prepares to cast his vote in Niamey, Niger, January 31, 2011

Niger's lead opposition candidate is forging political alliances that could prove decisive in next month's presidential run-off, which is meant to return the country to civilian hands following last February's military coup.

The election pits a key opposition leader against an ally of ousted president, Mamadou Tandja.

Since seizing power last February, the country's military leaders appear to be living up to their promise to restore democracy, holding a constitutional referendum and a series of nationwide elections, including a presidential poll on January 31.

Veteran anti-Tandja opposition leader, Mahamadou Issoufou, led that first round with 36 percent of votes. He looks increasingly well-placed for the second round, thanks to an endorsement from third place-candidate and former Tandja prime minister, Hama Amadou, who won nearly 20 percent of votes.

Amadou said he had previously partnered with Issoufou's party in the fight to restore democracy to the country. He said they want a leader who will respect the constitution and who will be a partner for the development and progress of Niger. Amadou also said they want a trustworthy leader who will ensure political stability for the country.

In the run-off election, Issoufou will face the former prime minister and candidate for the ex-president's party, Seini Oumarou, who came in second in the initial poll with 23 percent of votes.

Amadou had previously pledged to support Oumarou, as part of a six-member coalition formed just days before the first round election.

Amadou said he left that alliance because certain members did not respect the terms of their agreement. He said it was a kind of betrayal his party could not tolerate.

In total, three of the 10 first-round presidential candidates are now backing Issoufou for the second round. Issoufou's opposition party dominated local, regional, legislative elections in January, followed by the ex-president's party.

This week marks one year since soldiers stormed the presidential palace and ousted Tandja, after he changed the constitution to expand his powers and extend his mandate. It was the country's fourth military coup since 1974.

The ex-president is currently in prison, charged with corruption during his 10-year rule.

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