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
November 1, 2020
Presidential and Legislative Elections
December 27, 2020 (Second round February 20, 2021)
Presidential and Legislative Elections
February 21, 2016
Niger is scheduled to hold long-delayed local elections on November 1, 2020. These elections were supposed to take place in May 2016, but have been postponed multiple times. Next, the country will hold presidential and legislative elections on December 27.
The country transitioned away from one-party rule in 1991, but elections have never resulted in a transfer of power, and three coups have taken place since then. The 1996 coup resulted in the ouster of Mahamane Ousmane, Niger’s first democratically-elected president, and the 1999 coup resulted in the death of the colonel who ousted him and seized the presidency. The 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). The coup leader, General Salou Djibo, held power for a bit over a year, until April 2011. Subsequently, 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, and some of his supporters and other critics of Issoufou faced arrest.
Also in 2016, 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.
Niger’s constitution bars Issoufou from running for a third term, and in that vein, he has said he does not intend to 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). Issoufou’s party has nominated interior minister Mohamed Bazoum to be its presidential candidate.
Hama Amadou has also indicated that he intends to run. He left the country in 2016 after being released from prison to go to France for medical treatment, and he remained in exile in France until late 2019, when he returned to Niger, turned himself in, and said he would serve out the rest of his sentence before the elections (although he has gone back and forth between France and prison since then – at last reading, he was back in prison).
Seini Oumarou of Tanja’s MNSD-Nassara, who placed third in 2016 and is a former protege of Amadou, also plans to run. Coup leader General Salou Djibo has also announced his candidacy, as the nominee of the Peace-Justice-Progress (PJP) party.
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.
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
Updated July 3, 2020