Niger heads to polls in search of first democratic transition

By Boureima Balima NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger votes in an election on Sunday that is expected to lead to the first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents in a country reeling from Islamist violence. Former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum, the ruling party's candidate, is the overwhelming favourite to succeed President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two five-year terms leading the largely desert country of 23 million. Bazoum, 60, has promised continuity with Issoufou's policies, while also vowing to clean up pervasive corruption

Reuters December 27, 2020 07:10:19 IST
Niger heads to polls in search of first democratic transition

Niger heads to polls in search of first democratic transition

By Boureima Balima

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger votes in an election on Sunday that is expected to lead to the first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents in a country reeling from Islamist violence.

Former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum, the ruling party's candidate, is the overwhelming favourite to succeed President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two five-year terms leading the largely desert country of 23 million.

Bazoum, 60, has promised continuity with Issoufou's policies, while also vowing to clean up pervasive corruption.

"If I am lucky enough to win this election, you will have chosen someone who is ready from day one," he said in a campaign video.

Niger faces twin security crises. It has suffered repeated attacks near its western borders with Mali and Burkina Faso from militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Near its southeastern border with Nigeria it faces attacks from Boko Haram. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the last year alone.

The economic situation is also critical. More than 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed growth to a crawl, compounding the effects of climate change and low prices for top export uranium.

Bazoum faces 29 other candidates, who will hope to force a second round by denying him an outright majority of the vote.

Hama Amadou, who finished runner-up in the last election, was barred from running because of a criminal conviction, leaving the opposition without an obvious figurehead.

But last week, Amadou's party called on its supporters to turn out for Mahamane Ousmame, who was president from 1993-1996.

"After my candidate was disqualified, I didn't have the motivation to come out and vote," said Ali Hamma, an Amadou supporter. "But with the new instructions, I am going to vote."

A peaceful transfer of power would be a milestone for Niger, which has experienced four coups since gaining independence from France in 1960.

It would also stand in stark contrast to Ivory Coast and Guinea, whose presidents this year used constitutional changes to extend their tenures to three terms, raising fears of a democratic backslide in West Africa.

(Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Christina Fincher)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.