Niger Presidential Runoff: February 21, 2021

This year will see several sets of elections in Niger. The Agadez Mosque – the tallest adobe structure in the world, built in 1515 – in Agadez, Niger. Photo credit: Flickr/Dan Lundberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Freedom House Rating

Partly Free
Government Type
Semi-Presidential Republic
11.8 million
Local Elections
December 13, 2020
Presidential and Legislative Elections
December 27, 2020 (Second round February 20, 2021)
Presidential and Legislative Elections
February 21, 2016
Local Elections

Niger held long-delayed local elections on December 13, 2020. These elections were supposed to take place in May 2016, but have been postponed multiple times. Subsequently, the country held presidential and legislative elections on December 27, with the presidential runoff on February 21, 2021.

The presidential election was historic because it is the first time the country has had a peaceful transition of power from one elected president to another.

Political Context

Niger transitioned away from one-party rule in 1991, but elections have never resulted in a transfer of power, and three coups have subsequently taken place. Firstly, the 1996 coup resulted in the ouster of Mahamane Ousmane, Niger’s first democratically-elected president. Secondly, the 1999 coup resulted in the death of the colonel who ousted him and seized the presidency. Thirdly, 2010 coup removed Mamadou Tandja, who was elected in 1999 and tried to run for an unconstitutional third term in 2009. The coup was seemingly popular with Nigeriens (ironic because Tanja himself had participated in Niger’s 1974 coup). Subsequently, the coup leader, General Salou Djibo, held power for a bit over a year, until April 2011. Finally, Mahamadou Issoufou, leader of the then-opposition Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), became president.

The country’s 2016 presidential election saw Issoufou re-elected for a second term, defeating former parliament speaker Hama Amadou in a runoff, which the opposition boycotted due to arrests of opposition figures and allegations of fraud. Amadou, who had been a member of Tanja’s National Movement for the Development of Society (MNSD-Nassara) but broke away and founded the pan-African Nigerien Democratic Movement for an African Federation (MODEN/FA-Lumana), was jailed during the campaign. Moreover, some of his supporters and other critics of Issoufou faced arrest.

Meanwhile, PNDS and its allies won 118 out of the 171 seats in the unicameral National Assembly, while four opposition parties split the remaining 53 seats. Amadou’s MODEN/FA-Lumana won 25, while Tanja’s MNSD-Nassara won 20. Ousmane’s Democratic and Social Convention-Rahama won six seats, and the remaining two went to former prime minister Amadou Cissé’s Union pour la Démocratie et la République-Tabbat.

Candidates in the 2020 Presidential Election in Niger

Niger’s constitution barred Issoufou from running for a third term, and in that vein, he did not attempt to do so (in contrast to Alpha Condé of Guinea, his friend and longtime colleague in the Francophone socialist movement, who recently changed his country’s constitution in order to pave the way to a third term). Moreover, in October, he confirmed he would not seek another term. Issoufou’s party nominated interior minister Mohamed Bazoum to be its presidential candidate.

Hama Amadou had generally been considered to be the main challenger. He left the country in 2016 after being released from prison to go to France for medical treatment. After remaining in exile in France until late 2019, he returned to Niger, turned himself in, and said he would serve out the rest of his sentence before the elections. He has gone back and forth between France and prison since then. 

However, Niger’s constitutional court blocked Amadou’s candidacy. Therefore, he will not be running in the election. The court blocked a total of 11 candidates and allowed 30 to appear on the ballot.

In the first round, Bazoum won 56.76 percent of the vote and former president Mahamane Ousmane won 43.2 percent. Ousmane had served as Niger’s first democratically-elected president before he was removed in a coup.

Geopolitical Context

Niger lives in a rough neighborhood – a landlocked country in the Sahel. It borders a number of states that are embroiled in conflict, including Mali, Nigeria, and Libya. Terrorism remains a constant threat. However, the Nigerien government has been a staunch ally of Europe and the United States on regional security issues.

Curated News and Analysis

Isaac Mugabi, DW (February 22, 2021): Niger ruling party candidate takes the lead in presidential runoff

Jason Slotkin, NPR (February 21, 2021): 7 Poll Workers Killed By Landmine Amid Historic Niger

Reuters (February 18, 2021): Candidates for continuity, change compete in Niger’s historic runoff vote

AFP (November 14, 2020): Niger court blocks opposition presidential candidate from poll

Reuters (November 13, 2020): Niger’s top court clears 30 candidates for Dec. 27 presidential election

Cyril Payen, France24 (October 12, 2020 – in French): Niger: “I will not seek a third term”, confirms Mahamadou Issoufou

Nathalie Prevost, Mondafrique (October 5, 2020 – in French): Elisabeth Shérif: elections in Niger without rules of the game

Mathieu Olivier, Jeune Afrique (September 23, 2020 – in French): Presidential election in Niger: Hama Amadou, the last chance? (September 14, 2020 – in French): Local elections in Niger: The electorate officially convened by decree

Mathieu Olivier, Jeune Afrique (June 30, 2020 – in French): Niger: Mohamed Bazoum leaves government with presidency in sight

AFP (June 29, 2020): Ex-junta leader Djibo to contest Niger 2020 presidential election

Antonio Cascais, DW (February 18, 2020): Niger’s chance for a democratic transition of power

Reuters (November 18, 2019): Niger’s main opposition leader returns to jail with eye on presidential bid: lawyer

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content, and their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here

Updated February 23, 2021

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