Niger Holds Run-Off Vote With Opposition Leader in Hospitalby
Opposition candidate flown to Paris for medical treatment
President expected to win after getting 48% in first round
Niger began counting votes in the final round of a presidential election on Sunday that’s been complicated by the hospitalization in France of opposition leader Hama Amadou and a boycott by a coalition of political parties.
President Mahamadou Issoufou, who got 48 percent of votes on Feb. 11, will probably win a second term in office. Amadou, a former prime minister and speaker of parliament, came in second with 18 percent. Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m.
Amadou, 65, was evacuated to a hospital in Paris earlier this week after falling ill in a prison cell outside the capital, Niamey, where he’s been held since November. As the speaker of parliament, he fled Niger in 2014 after his immunity from prosecution was lifted amid a government probe into an alleged baby-trafficking network that implicated one of his wives. Amadou, who’s always maintained that the allegations were political and that his life was under threat, was arrested upon returning voluntarily in November.
The vote occurred without incident and the results will probably be announced within 48 hours, Boube Ibrahim, head of the electoral commission, said in an interview in the capital.
A coalition of opposition parties called for a boycott of Sunday’s vote, saying Amadou has been treated unfairly because he hasn’t been able to campaign. A high-ranking official of the electoral commission, Maikoul Zodi, said by phone late Saturday he resigned because the commission had taken measures that weren’t in line with the stipulation that personnel at polling stations comprise representatives of all political parties.
Niger, the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer, is an ally of the U.S. and France in the fight against Islamist militants that threaten West African nations. There are militant groups at three of Niger’s seven borders, including Islamic State to the north in Libya and Boko Haram to the south in Nigeria.