Africa

Niger presidential election 'is example for Africa'

A Nigerian with her baby votes on March 12, 2011 in Niamey
Image caption Voting is said to have passed off peacefully

Niger has held a peaceful presidential run-off vote, which the country's interim military rulers have hailed as an example for the rest of Africa.

The military helped organise the vote, a year after overthrowing former President Mamadou Tandja.

Voters had to choose between opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou and Mr Tandja's ally Seini Oumarou.

Mr Tandja had spent 10 years in power, but was overthrown when he tried to overstay his legal term limit.

The army, which has pledged to step down by April, said it was not backing either candidate and would serve whichever government the people chose.

General Salou Djibo, who has led the junta since its largely popular coup, called Saturday a "great day for me and for all Nigeriens".

"If this honourable vote is a success, our democratic achievement will set an example for the rest of Africa," he said as he cast his vote.

The BBC's Idy Baraou in the capital Niamey says the voting seems to have gone smoothly, but the turnout appears to be lower than in the first round of the vote, held last month.

The election was overseen by about 2,000 observers from the African Union, regional economic bloc Ecowas, the EU and US groups.

EU monitoring chief Santiago Fisas hailed the election as a "victory of the people of Niger", adding: "It is an example of how to come again to democracy in peace."

Niger, a largely desert nation in West Africa, has reserves of uranium and has attracted billions of dollars of investment.

But it remains one of the world's poorest nations, and has a recent history littered with military coups and failed democratic transitions.

Voter Mariama Maiga, a Nigerien student, told the AP news agency she hoped the election would turn the page of the country's political crises.

"The loser should concede his defeat and the new president should get to work to find a solution to our problems of unemployment, corruption and misappropriation of public funds," she said.

Mr Issoufou won 36% of votes in the first round, and expressed confidence he would be elected in the second round.

More on this story

Around the BBC