The socio-political crisis in Niger has reached its peak after the withdrawal of the opposition from the presidential run-off poll.
Incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou took 48.8 per cent of the vote, while opposition candidate Hama Amadou won 17.7 per cent in the first round held late February.
Mr. Amadou campaigned from prison where he is being detained on child trafficking charges, which he has denied.
With less than 10 days until the run-off between Mr. Issoufou and Mr. Amadou on March 20, the opposition coalition, COPA 2016, decided to suspend its participation due to alleged irregularities.
The COPA 2016 claimed there were “massive rigging” during the first round and a lack of a level playing field for the two candidates.
The opposition said the president unilaterally called for a second round on Monday and immediately started his campaigns on Tuesday, whereas his challenger is still being held in police custody.
They further said Mr. Issoufou’s violations of the electoral law were committed with complicity of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and the Constitutional Court, which were neither impartial nor independent.
The coalition has also decided to withdraw its representatives from the CENI and ordered its members of parliament to stop attending the National Assembly.
According to the spokesman for Mr. Amadou, Sani Mahamane, he (Amadou) will continue being a candidate until further notice.
“There is still time to create conditions ideal for free and fair elections,” Mr. Mahamane said.
Meanwhile, during a meeting over the opposition’s move, Foreign Minister Kane Aichatou told foreign envoys that the electoral process would follow its normal course, until Niger’s future president is elected.
The UN Development Programmme representative in Niger, Fode N’Diaye, also appealed for free and fair run-off elections.