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Niger

Issoufou wins Niger vote in next step to civilian rule

AFP

Social Democratic Party leader Mahamadou Issoufou has won elections in Niger with 57.95 per cent of the vote. He says he intends to return Niger to civilian rule after a military coup in February 2010.

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Issoufou defeated former Prime Minister Seini Oumarou, who took 42.05 per cent in the runoff election held on Saturday, according to the Niger electoral commission.

Voter turnout was 48.17 per cent, down from 51.56 per cent in the first round on 31 January.

"There was wild jubilation when the result was announced," says correspondent Ben Shemang. "The party of the defeated candidate has always insisted that the president-elect has been favoured by the military government. Many supporters of the president-elect are quick to reply that the defeated candidate is a very close friend of the deposed president, Mamadou Tandja."

There have been no reports of rigging anywhere.

The result is still provisional because a constitutional court still has to confirm it.

Oumarou, leader of the National Party for Democracy and Socialism, is a former ally of President Mamadou Tandja, who was toppled in a military coup last year after he attempted to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limits.

Issoufou, a longtime opponent of Tandja's rule, was the favourite after taking the lead in the first round vote.

He strengthened his candidacy by forging alliances, especially with Hama Amadou, another former premier under Tandja who garnered 19 per cent in the first round vote.

Niger's junta vowed to hand over power civilian government after it took power last year. No junta member ran in the election.

"If we can hold a successful election then together we will have accomplished bringing about a democracy that can serve as an example to Africa," junta leader General Salou Djibo said as he cast his ballot on Saturday.

Djibo urged candidates to respect the outcome of the vote.

The junta leader is scheduled to hand over to Issoufou on 6 April. The civilian and military authorities have signed a "republican pact" by which they have agreed to respect the country's new constitution, adopted at the end of last year.

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