Niger Presidential Election – Opposition Calls Fraud as Votes Start to TrickleFebruary 25, 2016 in Niger
On Tuesday, 23 February, opposition parties in Niger rejected initial results from the country’s presidential election, held on 21 February, which showed incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou in the lead. The opposition has called the results fraudulent.
Provisional results released from twenty of the country’s 308 municipalities indicate that Issoufou has so far garnered 40.18 percent of the vote, more than 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rival. Despite claims by the authorities that the vote met “international standards,” Amadou Boubacar Cisse, an election candidate and spokesman for the Coalition for Change group of opposition parties has stated “these results are completely contrary to what was expressed at the ballot box.” The opposition has also accused the Nigerien government of voter intimidation and warned of false results.
On 21 February, Niger closed its land borders and increased security for the election, with on the ground sources reporting that security forces patrolled the cities and villages in case of unrest or militant attacks. Some voters disclosed Sunday that they had never experienced such a tense election. While there were few reports of trouble, security sources did indicate that unidentified armed men attacked two electoral commission vehicles in a rural area about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of the capital city.
Voting on Sunday ended at 7 PM (1800 GMT) after a day of steady turnout, with those voters still queuing allowed to cast their ballots after that time. Voting in the country’s presidential and legislative elections was extended for a second day on Monday, 22 February, in areas where logistical problems prevented the polls from taking place the previous day. Polls on Monday were open in four of the eight regions: the northeastern Tahoua region, and Zinder, Diffa and Tillaberi, in the east, southwest and west respectively. A total of 7.5 million people were eligible to vote across the country. Late on Monday, the heads of observation missions, including the African Union (AU) reported that the 21 February elections took place “in a calm and serene environment.”
In the months leading up to the Niger’s presidential and legislative elections, the climate across the country has been made tense by Islamic extremist and complaints about a crackdown on dissent. For more than a year, the southeastern region of Niger has been targeted by cross-border raids carried out by Nigerian-based extremist group Boko Haram. The attacks and heightened threat have prompted officials to impose a state of emergency in the affected region. Recent high-profile attack carried out by al-Qaeda’s North African branch, AQIM, in the capital of neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have further raised fears that the Nigerien capital, Niamey, could be a target.
Further adding to the tensions is that government critics have accused the president of silencing opponents in a bid to stay in office. Critics point to a recent number of arrests of opposition politicians, journalists and a singer who released a song that was critical of incumbent president Issoufou.