Seventeen political parties in Niger that opposed the country's ousted president have formed an alliance ahead of presidential elections due in January of next year.  The various opposition parties say they each will present their own presidential candidates in the first round of voting.  They have pledged to throw their collective support behind whichever candidate advances to the second round.  The strategic accord was signed Saturday in Niger's capital, Niamey.

Opposition leader and group spokesman Mahamadou Issoufou says the parties signing the pact will work to ensure that one of their candidates is elected in the presidential poll. He says they will make no electoral agreements with political parties outside the alliance.  Issoufou said the pact will apply to those legislative and regional elections as well.

The presidential election will take place 3 Jan 2011, with a run-off planned for 14 Jan, if necessary.  Local and legislative elections also are planned during that time.

This is not the first time these 17 political parties have joined forces.  They also were part of the Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic that had opposed former President Mamadou Tandja.  Mr. Tandja had grown increasingly unpopular since expanding his power and giving himself another three years in office through a controversial referendum in August 2009.

Mr. Tandja was ousted in a military coup this February.  Soldiers promised an election and a return to civilian government within the year.