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Niger Presidential Candidates Want to Delay Election

  • Anne Look

Niger's presidential candidates are calling on the ruling military junta to delay until February 20, the presidential poll and to dissolve the electoral commission because of problems with local elections held earlier this month.

The elections are meant to return the country to civilian rule after a military coup in February 2010.

Hama Amadou, the head of the country's lead opposition coalition, says the electoral commission needs to be organized more efficiently so that the elections will go better than local polls earlier this month. Failure to do so, he says, could lead to enormous problems for the country. He says they have asked for a delay so the electoral commission can reorganize.

Opponents to the political party of ousted president Mamadou Tandja dominated local and regional polls, which the electoral commission said were marked by logistical problems.

Some political parties, including Mr. Tandja's, called for the results to be thrown out, citing irregularities.

Niger has been under military rule since February when the army overthrew the country's increasingly unpopular leader. Mr. Tandja was moved from house arrest to prison last week after the ruling military junta charged him with graft during his 10-year rule.

When the military took power, it promised elections within the year. The new constitution, voted on by referendum in October, gives the army until April 6 to restore civilian rule.

Candidate and former president, Mahamane Ousmane, says they have proposed a timeline that allows for delays to resolve existing problems but will not interfere with deadlines for a transition to civilian government.

The candidates presented their concerns to the representative of West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, in Niamey Thursday.

The leader of country's ruling military junta has not yet commented on any possible postponement to the elections, which are scheduled for Jan. 31.

If no presidential candidate wins a clear majority, a run-off between the two top-scoring candidates would likely be held in March.