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Issoufou in comfortable lead in Niger's presidential vote count

Issoufou in comfortable lead in Niger's presidential vote count

Niger

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou enjoyed a strong lead Thursday in his quest for a second term as leader of the uranium-rich west African nation, according to partial results from elections that the opposition has slammed as rigged.

With 3.18 million votes from Sunday’s election — representing a little over 40 percent of the 7.5-million strong electorate — the 63-year-old incumbent had just over 46 percent, well ahead of his closest rival, detained former parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou.

Amadou, who is behind bars on baby trafficking charges he said were concocted to thwart his presidential ambitions, had garnered only just over 16 percent, while former prime minister Seini Oumarou had about 11 percent, the electoral commission said.

President Mahamadou Issoufou, known as the “Zaki” or “Lion” in Hausa, the majority language in Niger, is seeking a second term and faces three main challengers.

The 63-year-old leader said last week that he was “absolutely” confident of a swift victory in the first round of the poll.

Should he fail to clinch an outright victory, his rivals, who have consistently accused him of planning to rig the result, have agreed to unite behind whoever scores highest among them for the run-off vote.

Opposition spokesman Cisse said Tuesday that the opposition was ready to ask supporters “to resist” should Issoufou claim victory, but refused to say what the opposition exactly planned to do.

He said that in Niger’s second biggest city, Zinder, and in other places “results are coming in from fake polling stations” with “the grave complicity of CENI”.

But Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou denied allegations of vote-rigging, saying the poll met “international standards.”

“If we lose we will leave without any problem, if we win we will stay,” he said.

A total of 15 candidates ran for president of the vast impoverished country on the edge of the Sahara Desert, which has been rocked over the past year by attacks by Boko Haram jihadists operating out of neighbouring Nigeria.

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