Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou took a solid lead in the uranium-rich nation’s presidential poll but will face a run-off against jailed opposition leader Hama Amadou on March 20.
The narrow win for Issoufou, who is known as “Zaki” or “Lion” in Hausa, came after he had vowed to secure a victory in the first round.
“I was set on winning the first round, but God has decided otherwise,” Issoufou said. “God’s choice is always best.”
The CENI election commission said Issoufou won 48.4 per cent of the February 21 vote — a tantalising 167,000 votes short of the knock-out victory he had sought — with his nearest challenger Amadou picking up 17.4 per cent.
His ruling coalition won a resounding majority in the National Assembly, taking more than 90 of the 171 seats, including 75 for his own PNDS party.
Issoufou defended the results as impressive and unprecedented and said a wave of pink — the colour of his party — had covered every region of the country.
“The people have made their decision calmly and in complete transparency,” added Issoufou, who campaigned on pledges to boost the economy and keep the country safe from jihadists.
The president’s rivals had pledged to unite behind whoever scored highest among them to challenge the 63-year-old’s bid for a second five-year term.
Amadou campaigned from behind bars after being arrested over his alleged role in baby-trafficking.
Former PM Seini Oumarou and ex-president Mahamane Ousmane, won 12.11 per cent and 6.25 per cent respectively.