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Tough choice for Niger as country goes to the polls

Tough choice for Niger as country goes to the polls

Niger

The election season is in full swing in Africa and other parts of the world.

Polls have already been held in Uganda and the Central African Republic. A few other countries are expected to follow suit later this month.

One of such countries is Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa bordered by Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Algeria.

15 candidates including the incumbent president are gunning for the country’s top job. But what are the odds in this election?

Mahamadou Issoufou, the incumbent President is hoping to not only get another shot at the presidency but to avoid going for a second round of polls.

During his final rally at the Niamey Sports Stadium, the President told teeming supporters that he was confident of a “knock-out” victory in the first round.

Failing to secure a first round victory could effectively narrow his chances for a second term because the opposition candidates have agreed to rally behind the top 3 who will make it to the next round in case there’s no clear winner after Sunday’s polls.

But if Issoufou succeeds in fending off a runoff poll, he would be Niger’s first president to have been elected during the first round of voting.

Issoufou run his campaign with the slogan “promises met”, an indication that he has kept his pledge of economic growth, infrastructure development and improved security in the face of terrorist attacks form Islamic militant groups in neighbouring Nigeria, Mali, Algeria and Libya.

But his achievements may not seem to matter much to the opposition who accuse him of becoming autocratic and arbitrarily arresting his perceived opponents.

Opposition presidential candidate, Hama Amadou is probably one of the many victims of this accusation leveled against the president.

He has had to run his entire campaign from prison. He was jailed in November last year for baby trafficking – a charge he has denied. Although he has been refused bail, he has been cleared to contest the elections. A move some analysts say puts him at a pole position for Sunday’s election.

Amadou, a former Prime Minister and former Speaker of Parliament helped the then candidate Issoufou to win the runoff polls in 2011 to become president. Now, the former allies are contesting each other.

There are two other favourites in the race. A former Prime Minister, El Hadj Seini Oumarou who was the runner up in the 2011 polls. The 65-year-old served under President Mamadou Tanja who was overthrown in a coup in 2010. He is on the ticket of the National Movement for the Society for Development.

And then there is Niger’s first democratically elected president, Mahamane Ousamane who has tried unsuccessfully since being toppled in 1996 to become president. The 66-year-old is hoping to be lucky this time around.

But irrespective of who emerges victor at the end of the day, there are several issues he will have to deal with, key among them – the incursions of Islamists groups operating in Niger’s neighbouring countries.

Education and healthcare facilities will also have to be made available as they are practically nonexistent in the country.

The country’s mineral-dependent economy could also suffer some external shocks as commodity prices keep fluctuating on the global market.

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