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Niger's Presidential Race Will Include First Female Candidate


In Niger, a woman will run for president for the first time in elections due in January.

Niger's former minister of culture, Mariama Bayard, announced this week she is a candidate in January's presidential poll.

Bayard will be the first woman to run for president in the West African country.

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

Bayard says it does not matter if you are a man or a woman, young or old. When a country arrives at such a historic turning point, you cannot resist your destiny.

Bayard has been an active civil society leader for the past two decades in Niger. She is known as a fervent advocate for women's rights and democracy.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, and food shortages sweeping the Sahel region this year threaten half of the country's 14 million people.

Bayard says today no one can be indifferent to the fate of this country with all its economic difficulties. She says this is at the heart of her decision to enter the presidential race. She says she will be the voice for the most humble of this country, with whom she has worked for many years.

Bayard is one of the first Niger presidential hopefuls to announce her candidacy.

The presidential election is set for January 3, with a run-off planned for January 14, if necessary. Local and legislative elections are also planned for that time.

The army took power in a February coup against President Mamadou Tandja, and soldiers promised elections within the year. The ousted president had grown increasingly unpopular since expanding his power and giving himself another three years in office through a controversial referendum in August 2009.

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