Niger’s Opposition Leader Claims He Won The Presidential Election

Niger opposition leader Mahamane Ousmane has claimed that he narrowly won the country’s presidential election, as fresh violence erupted a day after official results gave victory to his rival by a wide margin.

“The compilation of results… which we have in our possession through our representatives in the various polling stations give us victory with 50.3% of the vote,” Ousmane said on Wednesday, according to a video of a speech he made in the south-eastern town of Zinder.

According to provisional results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum picked up 55.75% of the vote in Sunday’s runoff and Ousmane 44.25%.

Police clashed with Ousmane supporters in the capital, Niamey, after CENI’s announcement on Tuesday, AFP news agency reported.

Sources in the city said at least one police station and shops owned by people perceived as being close to the government had been pillaged.

Internet access reduced

In Dosso, 100km south of Niamey, the offices of a pro-government party were damaged by fire, residents said.

Further violence erupted on Wednesday morning in Niamey’s central market area. Protesters threw stones and police responded with tear gas, and at least one petrol station was attacked, according to AFP.

In the afternoon, protesters confronted security forces in the southwestern town of Kollo, residents said.

Internet access was severely reduced on Wednesday in Niamey and Zinder.

Also on Wednesday, Moumouni Boureima, a former chief of staff of the armed forces, was arrested at his home, a security source said.

He was accused of leading the disturbances after the election result was announced, the source told AFP.

Boureima is reportedly close to Hama Amadou, the man who had been expected to be the most formidable opposition candidate in the election.

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But Amadou was banned from running because of a conviction for baby trafficking – a charge he says was politically motivated – and threw his support behind Ousmane.

The elections have been presented as the first democratic transition in the history of the coup-prone state. President Mahamadou Issoufou is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.

Bazoum, co-founder with Issoufou of the ruling PNDS party, picked up just over 39% of the vote in the first round on 27 December. Ousmane won just under 17%.

In 1993, Ousmane became Niger’s first democratically elected president, only to be toppled in a coup three years later.

In his speech, Ousmane insisted “fraud” had been committed “pretty much everywhere in all of Niger’s regions”.

“You have expressed your clear willingness to break with poor government, you have expressed your desire for change, for an emerging Niger,” Ousmane said, addressing Nigeriens.

“This desire for change has been expressed by your voting massively in my favour,” he said.

In the constituency of Timia in the Agadez region, “a turnout of 103% was recorded, with a score of 99% in favour of the ruling party’s candidate”, he claimed.

“In these areas, our delegates were forced at gunpoint to sign certifications (of the vote) without any possibility of adding remarks,” he said.

CENI has not yet commented on the allegations of irregularities.

An observer mission from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said the vote was held “under free, fair, credible and transparent conditions”.

It was marred, however, by two attacks that killed eight people in two regions where armed groups are active.


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