Niger Political Veterans To Face Off In Presidential Vote
Muhammad Irfan 10 days ago Fri 19th February 2021 | 05:20 PM
Niamey, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th Feb, 2021 ) :Niger will choose between two heavyweights in a presidential run-off vote on Sunday set to bring about the first democratic transition of power in the coup-prone country's history.
Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou's decision to voluntarily step down after two five-year terms was welcomed in a region where many leaders have tried to cling on to power.
"Handing over power in 2021 to a democratically elected successor... will be my greatest achievement," Issoufou has said.
His successor will either be his right-hand man and anointed successor Mohamed Bazoum or Mahamane Ousmane, who became the country's first democratically- elected president in 1993, only to be toppled in a coup three years later.
Ousmane, 71, is running for president for the fifth time since his ouster.
The 60-year-old former interior minister has already sealed the support of the candidates who came third and fourth in the first round.
"Bazoum has a coalition that is expected to win if the voting instructions of the parties which support him are respected by their activists," said Ibrahim Yahya Ibrahim of the International Crisis Group (ICG) thinktank.
But, he cautioned, it was "very far from being won".
Ousmane took nearly 17 percent in the first round.
He can count on the support of a coalition of 18 opposition parties called Cap 20-21 as well as Hama Amadou, who had previously been thought to be the most formidable candidate against Bazoum.
Amadou was ruled out from running due to a prison sentence for baby trafficking which he has slammed as politically motivated.
A diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the concern was not so much "unfair practices" but the ruling party's imposing electoral machine.
The elections "aren't perfect, at least they are elections," the source said.
- Vast challenges - Bazoum has campaigned on continuity with the previous regime, which has promised development in a country struggling with the highest birthrate in the world -- an average of seven children per woman.
"To absorb this population growth would take incredible economic growth," a Western diplomatic source said.
An immense security challenge also awaits whoever emerges as victor.
Hundreds of troops have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.
A senior defence ministry official told AFP that thousands of security forces have been deployed to protect voting day, "especially in areas prone to insecurity", while Niger's borders will be closed for 24 hours.
Polling stations will be open from 8 am to 7pm (0700-1800 GMT).