The leader of the opposition, Mahamane Ousmane on Wednesday has claimed victory in Niger’s presidential elections a day after official results gave victory to his rival by a wide margin. Fresh violence has erupted in Niamey over the declaration of the result.© Issouf SANOGO Bazoum, pictured at his party’s headquarters after Tuesday’s announcement of the election results
Police clashed with Ousmane supporters in the capital Niamey after CENI’s announcement on Tuesday
Ousmane said “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” Ousmane explained this in a video of a speech he made in the southeastern town of Zinder that was authenticated by his party.
The provisional results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), however, gave victory to the former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum, who picked up 55.75 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff and Ousmane 44.25 percent.
According to sources in Dosso, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Niamey, offices of a pro-government party agent were damaged by fire while at least one police station and shops owned by people perceived as being close to the government were destroyed.
Further violence erupted on Wednesday morning in Niamey’s central market area. Ousmane says he won Sunday’s runoff, although official results say he lost by more than 11 percentage points
Protestors threw stones and police responded with tear gas, and at least one petrol station was attacked, AFP reporters saw.
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 presidents have frequently stayed 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.
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 to sign certifications (of the vote) without any possibility of adding remarks,” he said.© Kun TIAN Niger
Bazoum, 60, co-founder with Issoufou of the ruling PNDS party, picked up just over 39 percent of the vote in the first round on December 27.
Ousmane, 71, won just under 17 percent 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.
Bazoum, speaking at his party’s headquarters on Tuesday, said he would be “the president of all Nigeriens” and reached out to Ousmane.
“Knowing his wisdom, I would like to count on him,” Bazoum said.
“If the opposition has doubts (about the election), it should be able to have the evidence” to put to the Constitutional Court, which certifies the results, he said.
Demonstrators in the streets of Niger’s capital Niamey face off against police as opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential election, the day after the Electoral Commission officially announced provisional results with ruling candidate Mohamed Bazoum as the winner.
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 and an estimated 460,000 people have fled their homes.