Niger’s opposition leader, Mahamadou Issoufou, won the March 12 presidential runoff vote, election commission Chairman Abdourahamane Ghousmane said.
Issoufou won 1,820,659 votes, or about 58 percent, defeating Seini Oumarou, the leader of former President Mamadou Tandja’s party, according to provisional results announced by Ghousmane today in Niamey, the capital. The Constitutional Council will announce final results by April 1, he said.
“I am humbled by the confidence that Nigeriens have placed in me,” Issoufou said on the Niamey-based state-run radio station Voix du Sahel. “I will build a Niger of human rights, a country that wins and that develops.”
Issoufou, 60, will replace Djibo Salou, who led a February 2010 coup after Tandja attempted to change a law limiting him to two terms in office and dissolved the constitutional court. He takes the helm of Africa’s second-largest uranium producer as an al-Qaeda-linked group has stepped up attacks targeting foreigners in the country of 16 million. A drought from 2009 to 2010 left one in five of the nation’s children under five years of age malnourished, according to the World Food Programme.
The elections were “fair and transparent,” Khalifa Babacar Sall, head of an African Union observer mission, said in a statement.
Issoufou’s Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme and opposition allies won 79 of 113 parliamentary seats in the Jan. 31 poll.
Issoufou, a former technical director at one of Areva SA (CEI)’s Nigerien units Societe des Mines de l’Air, was prime minister from 1993 to 1994 and was jailed in 2009 after he and other opposition leaders called for a general strike to protest Tandja’s attempts to extend his rule.
He has promised “continuity” in the mining industry and has vowed to increase defense spending to combat threats from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Issoufou is a member of the Hausa ethnic group, the most populous group in both Niger and neighboring Nigeria, according to the CIA World Fact Book, and is originally from Tahoua Department in central Niger.
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