Voting for the second round of Niger's presidential election began on Sunday as more than 7.4 million Nigeriens are expected at polling stations to choose the successor of the outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou.
The voters would choose their new leader between Mohamed Bazoum, candidate of the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, and Mahamane Ousmane of the Democratic and Republican Renewal, the opposition party.
Voters cast their ballots in 26,000 planned polling stations in 16 electoral constituencies across the country. The polling stations will be closed at 7 p.m., according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
After voting at the Niamey City Hall, Mahamadou Issoufou was delighted that "the peaceful alternation that has been lacking in Niger for decades will be realized". "I am proud to be the first democratically elected president (in the country) to be able to pass the baton to another democratically elected president," he said.
To face the immense challenges the country is confronted with, "We must build strong and stable democratic institutions," he said.
He said he hoped this second round of the presidential election will be a free and transparent ballot.
For his part, the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Issaka Souna, hoped that his compatriots come out and assume their participation which makes it possible to choose a President of the Republic.
He reassured in a press briefing that all arrangements have been made for a good organization of the poll.
In addition, Issaka Souna reminded the public that it is the CENI that holds the right on the proclamation of provisional results, and it is the Constitutional Court that holds the right to make final validation. "I would like us together to build a society of peace and democracy," he said.
Namadi SAMBO, former Vice-President of Nigeria, head of the Observation Mission of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), after visiting some polling stations in Niamey, said he was very impressed by the discernment and good organization that characterizes this election. "Our mission is satisfied with the organization and we hope that it will continue in the same way until the end of the poll, when the Nigerien people celebrate their democratic achievement," he said.
In Niamey, voters came out in large numbers as long lines of voters ready to fulfill their duty were visible outside polling stations on Sunday afternoon. Security forces are deployed at all voting sites. No major incidents were reported on Sunday afternoon in other parts of the country.
All polling stations are scheduled to be closed at 7 pm, except Diffa and Bilma departments, where the closing time is scheduled for 6 pm, according to CENI.