On Sunday, polls in Niger were opened as the voters braced about to elect a new president. The run-off election is the first-ever transfer of power through ballot box elections in the country. Mohamed Bazoum, an ally to the current President of the state, received 39% of the total votes in the first round of the elections held on December 27th last year. Therefore, he currently faces Mahamane Ousmane as his single and primary opponent. Mr. Ousmane was Niger’s President for three consecutive years. I.e., from1993 to 1996. Though in the last polls, he only managed 16.9% of the total votes.
According to Niger’s Electoral Board, a total of 7.5 million citizens were eligible voters. As such, what mattered was free and fair elections come results. Meanwhile, Niger has turned into a global military hub. The state has been hosting army bases with military troops from France, the United States, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. Also, Niger has been working on its relationship with Russia and Turkey. Somehow, it is working to strengthen its national security.
Bazoum, the flag bearer for Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism, held key ministries in Issoufou’s cabinet. The 61-year-old, having worked closely with the former President, happens to be seen as the public’s favorite compared to his opposition. After dethronement, Mr. Ousmane, who lost his seat three years ago, has tried coming up but has failed a couple of times.
President Issoufou’s decision not to vie for a third term is in line with the state’s constitution and a sign of democratic openness. Nonetheless, the years preceding the polls have been accompanied by surging insecurity along the country’s borders. Corruption, scandals, and repressive measures against civil society members have also seen an escalation.
The elections will complete Nigers three month electoral period, which kicked off in early December. Many anticipate that the vote will be Niger’s first peaceful transition of power between democratically elected leaders.
Before the voting, the Presidential candidates launched their campaigns with support from large multiparty coalitions in the border region of Tillaberi. The latter is a hotspot of worsening conflict surging in the western part of the Sahel. It is past a decade, and violence in the region keeps escalating.
Attacks organized by armed rebels linked to ISIL or ISIS and al-Qaeda have thrived in the Sahel because of their aid from some of the western forces. The region near Niger’s border with Mali and Burkina Faso has become the center of militia attacks. As such, nearly 90000 people have been forced to vacate their homes. The United Nations confirms that within the past three years, the number of refugees has tremendously increased. And they are in dire need of humanitarian support.
Last year, at the onset of January, a minimum of 621 people lost their lives during the attacks. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reports that the number has risen by 40% this year. During one of Ousmane’s rallies in Tillaberi, he raised concerns of the constant insecurities, asking questions on how the people are expected to survive.
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