Niger opposition rejects initial election results, citing fraud

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station during the country's presidential and legislative elections in Niamey, Niger, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Penney

DAKAR (Reuters) - Opposition parties in Niger on Tuesday rejected initial results from Sunday’s presidential election that showed incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou in the lead, calling them fraudulent.

Provisional results from 20 of the West African country’s 308 municipalities gave Issoufou 40.18 percent of the vote, more than 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rival.

“These results are completely contrary to what was expressed at the ballot box,” said Amadou Boubacar Cisse, an election candidate and spokesman for the Coalition for Change group of opposition parties.

Issoufou, who has vowed to crush Islamist militants and tackle deep poverty in his country, ran against 14 other candidates in a tense vote on Sunday. The voting spilled over into Monday because of logistical problems.

The provisional results showed Hama Amadou, a one-time ally of Issoufou who has been jailed since November, received 29 percent of the vote. Seyni Oumarou, leader of the opposition, got 12 percent and Cisse less than two percent.

Critics accuse Issoufou of seeking to suppress dissent and of ordering the arrest of opposition supporters in the run-up to Sunday’s vote. The government has dismissed such criticism as politically motivated.

Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki, writing by Edward McAllister; editing by John Stonestreet and Gareth Jones