Niger presidential, legislative polls slated for February 21 2016

On Tuesday, Niger’s government picked the 21st of February, 2016 as the date for the country’s presidential and legislative elections. According to an official communique released following a cabinet meeting, the campaign exercise will take off on the 30th of January and end on the 19th of February next year.

The incumbent president, Mahamdou Issoufou, is favoured to be in the lead even though the opposition is currently accusing him of subduing Nigeriens by force.

Issoufou won the January–March presidential election in 2011 through a second round of voting against the National Movement for the Development of Society (MNSD-Nassara) candidate, Seyni Oumarou and was inaugurated as president on the 7th of April, 2011. An election which restored democratic rule to the country after a military coup occurred the previous year. Allegedly, a plot to assassinate Issoufou was uncovered in July 2011, culminating in the arrest of a Major, Lieutenant and three other soldiers in Niger’s military. While he has become an important figure head in the fight against regional Islamist militants in West Africa, critics have expressed concerns that he has become increasingly authoritarian.

His main opposition next year is expected to be Seyni Oumarou, again, a Nigerien politician who was Prime Minister of Niger from June 2007 to September 2009 and President of the National Assembly of Niger. As stated previously, he also finished second to Issoufou in the 2011 election.

Hama Amadou, former Issoufou ally and past Secretary-General of the MNSD-Nassara, had previously declared his intentions to run for presidency after returning from exile in September. However, he was arrested for his involvement in a baby trafficking scheme upon arrival into Niger last month. Amadou denies these accusations against him, claiming the charges are politically motivated.

Authorities have agreed to audit voter rolls before next year’s vote.

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