Opposition leader Mahamane Ousmane on Wednesday claimed he narrowly won Niger’s presidential elections, a day after official results said he lost by more than 11 percentage points.
“The compilation of results… which we have in our possession through our representatives in the various polling stations give us victory with 50.3 percent of the vote,” he said, according to a video of a speech he made in the southeastern town of Zinder that was authenticated by his party.
According to provisional results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum picked up 55.75 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff and Ousmane 44.25 percent.
Police clashed with Ousmane supporters in the capital Niamey after CENI’s announcement on Tuesday, and protests also took place in Zinder, the country’s second largest city.
The elections have been presented as the first democratic transition in the history of the coup-prone Sahel state.
President Mahamadou Issoufou is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms — a rarity in Africa, where more and more presidents stay in power through constitutional changes that reset term limits to zero.
“You have expressed your clear willingness to break with poor government, you have expressed your desire for change, for an emerging Niger. This desire for change has been expressed by your voting massively in my favour,” Ousmane said in his speech.
– ‘Fraud’ alleged –
He insisted “fraud” had been committed “pretty much everywere in all of Niger’s regions.”
In the constituency of Timia in the Agadez region, “a turnout of 103 percent was recorded, with a score of 99 percent in favour of the ruling party’s candidate,” he claimed.
“In these areas, our delegates were forced at gunpoint gun to sign certifications (of the vote) without any possibility of adding remarks,” he said.
Bazoum, 60, co-founder with Issoufou of the ruling PNDS party, picked up just over 39 per cent of the vote in the first round on December 27.
Ousmane, 71, won just under 17 per cent in the first round but gained pledges of support from a coalition of 18 opposition parties in the days before the runoff.
In 1993, Ousmane became Niger’s first democratically-elected president, only to be toppled in a coup three years later.
The opposition’s most charismatic candidate, Hama Amadou, was banned from running in the latest elections because of a conviction for baby trafficking — a charge he slammed as politically motivated.
Niger is the world’s poorest nation according to the UN’s development rankings for 189 countries.
It is also struggling with jihadist insurgencies that have spilled over from Mali in the west and Nigeria in the southeast. Hundreds of lives have been lost, 460,000 people have fled their homes.