Niger's ruling party appears on course to retain the presidency as partial results released Thursday showed candidate Mohamed Bazoum holding a big lead over his competitors.
With 156 out of 266 electoral districts counted, Bazoum had crossed the one million vote mark while his closest rival - Mahamane Ousmane was in second place with 425,000 votes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said.
The former interior minister in President Mahamadou Issoufou's government is aiming for a first-round victory, something that has never happened in the country.
Bazoum, who benefited from the electoral machinery of his party and the state, promised to focus on security and education, especially for young girls.
Niger is notorious for child marriages. With a fertility rate of almost 7 children per woman, it is the country with the highest fertility rate in the world followed only by Mali.
One of the main challenges for the next president will be to curb militant attacks that have killed hundreds of people since 2010, and caused about 500,000 refugees and displaced persons to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
Affected by extremist violence, extreme poverty and climate change, Niger is looking to achieve its first ever democratic transition, with Issoufou handing over power after the end of his 10-year tenure.
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