Five things to know about Niger, which is organizing general elections

Some 7.6 million voters are called to the polls on December 27, 2020 in Niger to elect a successor to Mahamadou Issoufou who is stepping down after two successive terms. The first round of the presidential election is coupled with a legislative ballot. This election day is an opportunity to learn a little more about this country in sub-Saharan Africa which is facing security, economic and humanitarian challenges.

1A young democracy

Like all African countries, Niger has been independent for only sixty years and has experienced three coups d’├ętat, the last of which took place in 2010. Despite the upheavals, this great French-speaking country which is twice France strengthens its civil power and its democracy. Unlike other African presidents, as in Guinea or Ivory Coast, Mahamadou Issoufou gives up his place after two terms as provided for in the Constitution.

2A plethora of candidates

Thirty candidates are vying for the presidential election. Among them, figure Bazoum Mohamed, 59 years old, runner-up appointed by outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou. Former Minister of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, the candidate of the ruling party is considered the favorite in the poll. This two-round election will be played without the main opponent, Hama Amadou, who was dismissed by the Constitutional Court because of his conviction in 2017 in a case of trafficking in babies. The opposition nevertheless participates in the general elections while contesting the new electoral code.

Niger map (Google capture)

3Threatening insecurity

As can be seen on the map, Niger is a landlocked country in the Sahel, limited in particular by Mali, Libya and Nigeria. Since 2015, it has been the victim of recurring jihadist attacks (in the west and south-east of the country) and has experienced a significant deterioration in security. The operations claimed by the Islamic State organization or the Boko Haram group target both the army and civilians. Security is one of the main challenges facing the new power and the current power has planned to double the size of the army within five years.

4A very poor country

Economic and social development is an important issue for Niger, which is one of the poorest countries on the planet, according to the World Bank. Despite the progress made in recent years, nearly four in ten Nigeriens live on less than two euros a day. The country is faced with explosive population growth which is delaying its development. With an average of more than seven children per woman, Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. One in two girls does not go to school and many marry before the age of 15.

5Lots of resources

Niger is also a country with significant natural resources with reserves of uranium, phosphates, gold, coal, tin and oil. It is also the third largest producer of uranium in the world, but that is not enough. The exploitation of resources is not transparent and does not necessarily benefit Nigeriens. Good governance, the fight against corruption and political and security stability will undoubtedly result in better economic and social performance.

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