Niger to hold second round of presidential vote next month

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Niger will hold a second round in its presidential election after none of the 28 candidates in the Dec. 27 vote won a majority, according to results released Saturday by the electoral commission.

Former foreign affairs minister Mohamed Bazoum of the ruling party will face off with former president Mahamane Ousmane on Feb. 21.

Bazoum received 39.3% of the vote, while Ousmane received 16.9%, according to the National Independent Electoral Commission. Seini Oumarou of the National Movement for the Development of Society party came in third and Albade Abouba of the Patriotic Movement for the Republic came in fourth, each with just over 7%.

The West African country is expected to see its first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960, while jihadists in the region pose a growing threat. Some 7.4 million Nigeriens were registered to vote to elect the successor to President Mahamadou Issoufou, who has served two terms and is stepping down.

Niger has seen four coups since independence.

The turnout for the first round was about 67.7%, the commission said.

Bazoum of the president’s Nigerian Party for Democracy and Socialism is a teacher by training. He has promised to build boarding schools for girls to encourage them to stay in school longer, which he says would help reduce child marriage in a country with many teenage pregnancies.

Ousmane was elected president in 1993 but was overthrown in a coup in 1996. In this election he had the endorsement of the popular opposition leader Hama Amadou, whose candidacy was rejected by the constitutional court.