Presidential election in Niger: the opposition claims victory, some clashes

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Some clashes broke out on Wednesday in Niger where the opposition claimed their victory in the presidential election after the official announcement of that of the candidate for power in this poor country already facing immense challenges, including the jihadist threat.

“The compilation of the results of the minutes in our possession through our delegates in the different polling stations gives us winners with 50.3% of the votes”, affirmed Mahamane Ousmane from his stronghold of Zinder (south-east) on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.

Internet access was severely reduced on Wednesday in the capital Niamey and in Zinder, the country’s second city, AFP noted.

In Agadez, in the constituency of Timia, “the turnout of 103% was reported with a score of 99% in favor of the candidate of power”, accused Ousmane, saying that he was going to file appeals before the Court constitutional as required by law.

“In these areas our delegates were forced under the threat of firearms to sign the minutes, without any possibility of making observations,” he said.

Presidential election in Niger: the opposition claims victory, some clashes

This announcement was followed on Wednesday morning by some unrest in the capital, especially in the central district of the grand-marché, where at least one Total station was vandalized.

In the afternoon, some groups of young people opposed to the victory of the ruling candidate Mohamed Bazoum confronted the security forces in Kollo, about fifty km from Niamey, according to residents on the spot, as well as in some areas west of Niamey.

The former chief of staff of the armed forces Moumouni Boureima (in post under the Mamadou Tandja regime, until 2010), was arrested at his home on Wednesday, according to a high-ranking security source.

He is accused of being “a leader” of the disturbances that have punctuated the announcement of the results, added this source. He is reputed to be close to Hama Hamadou, the main Nigerien opponent who was unable to stand but supported the candidacy of Mahamane Ousmane.

“Several people” were arrested and others were wanted on Wednesday evening, state prosecutor Maman Sayabou Issa said on state television, without giving further details.

The defense forces “have organized themselves to restore order” after “acts of vandalism” since Tuesday evening, he said.

Presidential election in Niger: the opposition claims victory, some clashes

“Electoral hold-up”

Tuesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni) had given winner with 55.75% of the vote Mohamed Bazoum, dolphin of outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou, according to provisional results which must be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

Before this announcement, the opposition had already denounced an “electoral hold-up” and demanded the suspension of the announcement of the results.

Sporadic clashes then took place in Niamey, young people walking in the streets of the city center throwing stones at the police.

On the outskirts of the headquarters of the ruling party where Bazoum made a statement welcoming Ousmane’s score and wishing “that we were looking in the same direction”, tear gas had been fired against demonstrators trying to approach it.

The night was then agitated in the capital and in Dosso, 100 km south of Niamey, where clashes between demonstrators and the police took place.

In Niamey, at least one police station and shops of presumed close to power were ransacked by demonstrators, according to various sources contacted by AFP.

Presidential election in Niger: the opposition claims victory, some clashes

Condemnation and congratulations

The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) condemned this “post-electoral violence”, while Bazoum was congratulated by several of his peers in the region: Alassane Ouattara (Ivory Coast), Roch Marc Christian Kaboré (Burkina Faso), Idriss Déby Itno (Chad), or Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (Mauritania).

The real success of the ballot in this Sahelo-Saharan country with a history marked by putschs and already facing multiple challenges – including that of jihadist attacks – lies in the acceptance of the results by all parties once the results have been announced, according to many observers.

Between the two rounds, the opposition said they would not recognize the results if they felt they were tainted with fraud. She had already denounced irregularities in the first round, but had been dismissed by the courts.

If she had refused to participate in the Ceni in the first round, she had finally joined it for the second.

“If the opposition has doubts, it must be able to have elements of evidence” to transmit to the Constitutional Court, noted Mr. Bazoum on Tuesday evening, addressing the press.