Niger’s Issoufou wins poll to end junta rule


Niger’s opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou will head the West African country’s return to civilian rule after provisional results showed he won a presidential election with a score of 57.95 percent.

Issoufou beat Seyni Oumarou, a party ally of ex-president Mamadou Tandja who was ousted by soldiers last year for outstaying his term in office in the uranium-producing state.

The ruling junta has said it wants the election and the peaceful return to civilian rule to be a model for democracy across Africa, where the violent battle for power in Ivory Coast is only the latest in a string of contested elections, Reuters reports.
“I want to thank the authorities of the transition who handled the process with much skill,” Issoufou, whose social democratic party is promising big spending projects, told local television after the results were issued.

Oumarou scored 42.05 percent, according to the electoral commission, which said turnout was just 48 percent. Analysts said before the vote many Nigeriens had grown sceptical about politics after years of coups and corruption. Temperatures above 40 degrees during voting on Saturday was also seen a factor.

The military junta led by General Salou Djibo has won international praise for keeping its promise to organise credible elections to install a civilian president by April 6.

A desert nation whose uranium riches have drawn billions of dollars of investments, mainly from French nuclear giant Areva, Niger remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

It has suffered repeated coups since independence in 1960 and has recently faced attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants who have targeted mining staff and other expatriates for ransom.

Issoufou, 58, promised during the campaign to raise about six trillion CFA francs during his five-year term to invest in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and other projects to create about 50,000 jobs annually.

His party programme promises to accomplish this with average growth of at least seven percent, compared to 1.2 percent in 2009, collecting taxes worth 20 percent of GDP, and tapping the debt market of the eight-country West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

It said that the state’s role as a regulator in the mining sector would be strengthened and it would also push for increased competitiveness in the uranium sector.