Niger goes to polls to elect president

Voters in Niger are to go the polls in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections. President Mahamadou Issoufou is hoping to secure a second term in the impoverished West African nation.

His main opposition rival, Hama Amadou, is currently behind bars accused of trafficking babies, a charge he strongly denies.

The run-up to the vote has been marred by accusations of repression and a row over identification documents.

The authorities have announced that roughly 1.5 million people without ID papers will be able to cast their ballots by having witnesses vouch for them, in a move that was condemned by opposition leaders.

Crowded field

Polling stations are due to open at about 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Sunday.

Security is expected to be tight amid fears of jihadist attacks by groups based in neighbouring Nigeria, Mali and Libya.

Meanwhile President Issoufou says his government foiled a coup plot in December.

One of the candidates in Sunday’s presidential election, Ibrahim Hamidou, was arrested for casting doubt upon December’s alleged coup but was released in January against the wishes of state prosecutors.

Well-known figures among the crowded field of 15 presidential candidates also include former Prime Minister Hama Amadou, who denies trafficking babies from neighbouring Nigeria, and Mahamane Ousmane, Niger’s first democratically elected president.

A run-off will be held if no candidate secures an outright victory on Sunday.

The uranium-producing nation is seen as an important ally of Western powers in the fight against militant Islamists in the fragile Sahara region.

However, the country is far from stable with corruption, food shortages and porous borders remaining serious problems.

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