Nigeriens will be casting their votes in the presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, December 27.
Unlike the sit-tight power syndrome peculiar to African leaders, the incumbent President, Mahamadou Issoufou will not be standing for reelection; as he had served two terms already.
It means the vote will lead to Niger’s first transition of power between two freely elected candidates.
The Constitutional Court validated 30 candidates for the elections.
Below are some of the candidates contesting in the elections:
Is the favourite candidate in the race.
The 60-year-old former interior minister is Issoufou’s handpicked successor.
He has vowed to continue the incumbent’s policies to combat Islamist violence and end poverty.
He has called his policy platform Renaissance 3, which is named after Issoufou’s Renaissance 1 and Renaissance 2 governing agendas.
“We are going to consolidate the gains of the past 10 years,” he previously said.
“We are going to continue in the direction set by President Mahamadou Issoufou.”
Among the prominent candidates is Seini Oumarou, a high representative of the head of state since 2016, a post he recently left.
Seini Oumarou was nominated by his party, the National Movement for Social Development (MNSD).
At 70 years of age, he is campaigning for the third time – after 2011 and 2016. His party led Niger from 1999 to 2010.
Mr. Oumarou served as prime minister from 2007 to 2009.
Former Minister of State for Planning and Development, Amadou Boubacar Cissé is the candidate of the Union for Democracy and Republic (Udr Tabbat).
He was elected President of the Republic of Niger in the first democratic election on March 27, 1993.
After several months of social tensions, he was overthrown in a coup d’état led by Colonel Ibrahim Baré Mainassara in January 1996.
He is the candidate of the Renewed Democratic and Republican Party (Renouveau Démocratique et Républicain).
Ibrahim Yacouba, who ran against current President Mahamadou Issoufou in the 2016 presidential election, came 5th with 4.43% of the vote in the first round. He became Minister of Foreign Affairs after offering support for the President Mahamadou Issoufou in the second round of the elections, but was dismissed in April 2018 by the head of state for “disloyalty”.
Ibrahim Yacouba is the candidate of the Patriotic Movement of Niger (MPN).
In November, the Constitutional Court declared the main opposition candidate Hama Amadou “ineligible” to run in Sunday’s election.
Although the court didn’t give a specific reason, it is assumed Amadou’s candidacy was rejected because of a one-year jail sentence.
The former prime minister and former president of the National Assembly was sentenced in 2017 to one year in prison in a case of child trafficking.
Although he had been granted a presidential pardon last March while serving his sentence, he was still, according to the Constitutional Court, affected by Article 8 of the Electoral Code which stipulates that anyone sentenced to at least one year in prison cannot be allowed to run for president.
Possible challenges awaiting the President elect
Security challenges are among the major tasks that lie ahead for whoever emerges winner from Sunday’s polls.
Niger is neighbor to two countries facing serious conflict. Close to Niger’s western border is Mali and Burkina Faso, where jihadists with ties to al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active.
Also, Boko Haram’s operation is on Niger’s southeastern border.
Over the past year, hundreds of Nigerian soldiers and civilians have been killed in attacks.
Tackling poverty will be another challenge. In 2019, more than 40 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.
The coronavirus pandemic has also hit Niger’s economy this year.