- Niger's incumbent President Mamadou Tandja has been declared the winner of the second round of the country's presidential poll. He thus becomes the first Nigerien leader ever to be re-elected, after decades of instability and military coups. President Tandja achieved 65.5 percent of the votes, thus getting his second five-year term.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) yesterday released the official results of the run-off poll between President Tandja and the opposition challenger Mahamadou Issoufou. The incumbent was declared winner of the Saturday poll as Mr Issoufou only had secured 34.5 percent of the votes.
Niger has few traditions when it comes to democratic institutions and elections. Multiparty elections were only introduced in 1993 and until now, every civilian President had seen his term interrupted by a military coup before standing a chance to bid for re-election. Therefore, there were few expectations of a free and fair election in Niger.
CENI and Nigerien authorities however surprised the world by organising a praiseworthy poll exercise. This was confirmed by the around 90 observers from the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU), which praised CENI for its handling of the first round.
The EU and AU election observers said the organisation of the election as well as the vote count were "satisfactory and in conformity with regulations." CENI had managed to organise a free poll in a vast country with very poor infrastructure and very limited resources, the observers emphasised.
Also the final election results were not likely to provoke protests from the opposition as challenger Issoufou indeed achieved a better score than widely expected.
President Tandja won 40.7 percent of the votes cast in the first round on 16 November, while Mr Issoufou only won 24.6 percent of the vote. All the other presidential candidates advised their electorate to cast their vote for President Tandja, allegedly in a bid for government posts in the new administration. A total of 34.5 percent of the votes for Mr Issoufou therefore was generally seen as a remarkable victory for the opposition candidate.
The somewhat lower than expected result for President Tandja partly has been attributed to the low voter turnout in the vast country. Only 45 percent of Niger's five million eligible voters had turned up at the polling stations on Saturday, according to official numbers from CENI.
Re-elected President Tandja has increasingly become a strong guarantor of internal peace and stability in Niger, the world's second poorest country. The 66-year-old has a background from the Nigerien army and has served in two military governments. He has however also been an important driving force in the re-establishment of civilian rule in Niger.
Mr Tandja has been a presidential candidate in all elections since the introduction of multi-party polls in 1993. In the first two elections, in 1993 and 1996, he failed to win a majority. In 1999, after yet another military coup, it however finally was Mr Tandja's time to be elected Nigerien President.
Since 1999, Niger has mostly remained peaceful and stable, something the Nigerien electorate has attributed to President Tandja. For the first time since the 1970s, the government of Niger during several years has also been able to focus on developing the economy of the impoverished Sahelian country.
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