Niger's military ruler says he will not postpone presidential and legislative elections meant to return the country to civilian rule after a military coup last February.
The leader of Niger's ruling military junta, General Salou Djibo, said elections will take place January 31, as planned, despite calls from eight of the country's 10 presidential hopefuls to push back the vote by three weeks.
The announcement followed a meeting this weekend with the candidates, who also had called for an overhaul of the electoral commission, citing problems with local and municipal elections held January 11.
Candidate and opposition leader, Hama Amadou, said the discussions were frank and direct, but the conclusions were not what they had hoped. He said they were offered a rather limited choice to take part in the elections or not.
Amadou said that since the vote is not being postponed, it would be useless to try to replace the leadership of the electoral commission, as that would only block elections.
But not all of the presidential candidates were disappointed by the decision to stick with a January 31 poll date.
Candidate and former prime minister Mahamadou Issoufou said the organizational problems noted in the local elections resulted from insufficient resources and funding, rather than specific electoral commission officials. He said, therefore, it was decided this weekend the electoral commission should remain in place.
Electoral officials say some improvements are being made for next week's polls.
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 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. Tandja was moved from house arrest to prison this month 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.
If no presidential candidate wins a clear majority in next weeks' poll, a run-off between the two top-scoring candidates would likely be held in March.