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Niger Vote Results Being Announced


A woman holds a ballot paper bearing portraits of the presidential candidates at a polling station, in Niamey, January 31, 2011.

A woman holds a ballot paper bearing portraits of the presidential candidates at a polling station, in Niamey, January 31, 2011.

Niger's electoral commission has begun releasing provisional results for Monday's presidential and parliamentary elections meant to hand the country back over to civilians after nearly a year of military government.

Niger's electoral commission says it will announce provisional results for the presidential race late Wednesday, just 48 hours after polls closed. The commission began announcing results for the country's 116 legislative races on Tuesday.

Last week, eight of the 10 presidential candidates called for the electoral commission to be overhauled and the polls to be pushed back, citing logistical problems experienced during local and regional elections held on January 11.

The country's ruling military government, however, decided to go forward with elections as planned.

Despite fears of irregularities, political parties and voters expressed satisfaction Monday with what was, for the most part, a calm and orderly vote.

Alat Mogasikya of the National Party for Democracy and Socialism, one of the parties that had called for a postponement, says the vote went well overall. He says polling stations opened more or less on time and they did not have reports of missing voter materials, like they had during the municipal elections.

Election officials say approximately half of Niger's 6.7 million registered voters went to the polls Monday.

The Head of the European Union election observation mission to Niger , Santiago Fisas Ayxela, said Wednesday that the elections were "an example for many countries on the continent."

"Perhaps we have had some minor technical problems but on the whole, the elections have been a big success," Ayxela said.

The EU observers issued recommendations aimed at increasing transparency in a possible second-round presidential election, that included posting results outside polling stations and online.

The elections are a final step in what has been a relatively smooth, year-long transition back to civilian government for one of the world's poorest countries.

Last February, soldiers stormed the presidential palace and ousted the country's increasingly unpopular leader, Mamadou Tandja, who had forced through constitutional changes in 2009 to expand his powers and extend his elected mandate.

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

The country's current military leaders appear to be living up to their promise to restore democracy, but analysts say it remains to be seen whether the elections will bring long-term political stability to Niger which has had four coups since 1974.

Frontrunners among the ten presidential hopefuls include the historic leader of the anti-Tandja opposition, Mahamadou Issoufou, and former Tandja prime ministers, Seini Oumarou and Hama Amadou.

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