Nigerien elections: between Inheritance Problems and the Dangers of Security Deviant
Niger is seeking a democratic transition after 10 years of the country's current president system, Mohamedou Yusufu, and comes in an African context. As this does not help to respect the constitutional mandates of the rulers. And additionally, the elections come in a security and economic environment that has not been overtaken by previous security and political approaches in the country. What these elections represent in the context of the political and authoritarian tracks in Niger, and to what extent the power candidate, Minister Mohamed Bazum, can succeed his friend Mohamedou Yusufu, or the opposition, with its various sects and symbols, will be able to drag Bazum to a second round and then defeat.
Niger: trapped in geography and democracy
Niger is classified as a reserve country, surrounded by seven African countries, while the famous Niger River as a part of its territory, built on some of its tiers, ancient African civilizations.
It spans 1,270,000 square kilometres and has a population of 17.129,076, mostly concentrated in The south, west of the country, and east of the Niger River. The arid deserts occupy much of Nigerien territory, one of the world's poorest developing country, and is the lowest in growth indicators. Although its territory contains one of the world's most important uranium mines, which is the most important source of energy on which French companies depend for energy production.
As part of this economic vulnerability, Niger has experienced turbulent economic conditions over the past decades. Furthermore, this was a clear proof for the state's inability to provide good basic services in the education, health, food sources and basic infrastructure sectors. In addition to political turmoil, economic crises and development imbalances, Niger are experiencing a heightened security crisis, driven by increased attacks by Boko Haram, the use of ISIS from Niger as a springboard for multiple attacks, targeting the army and security and foreign bases on the territory. Similarly, the continuous kidnappings that occasionally target Western workers and tourists, in addition to multiple strikes and various attacks on some neighbouring countries.
Niger can now be considered one of the main platforms of terrorism and armed violence in the region, and during this year it witnessed a series of the most violent acts and armed attacks on its soldiers and residents on its land. In addition to the violence of a religious nature, Niger has suffered throughout long periods of its contemporary history from political and ethnic violence. The Tuareg militants led a massive rebellion for years and were able to inflict more than one explosive and painful military operation on the government, for many years. Besides, the collapse of the Libyan regime and the resulting chaos of weapons and the generalization of violence in the region have given a very complex security dimension to the multiple crises of Niger.
Since its independence from France in 1960, Niger has been punished by several regimes, and, like other African countries, has suffered the scourge of dictatorship and coups. Niger began with a unilateral civilian rule led by politician Hamani Diori for 14 years before he was overthrown in a military coup led by Colonel Sani Konche, who continued to rule unilaterally until he died in 1987. He was succeeded by Colonel Ali Saybo, who adopted partial political openness before finally succumbing to the winds of democratic openness that had blown over Africa in the early 1990s. The establishment of The National Reconciliation Conference in June 1991, which ended with the disqualification of Colonel Ali Sayabo from power. After that, the formation of a transitional government, and the assignment of Colonel André Salivo to run the National Conference, the highest body in the country during that period.
At the beginning of 1993, politician Mahaman Osman won the presidency of Niger to become the country's first elected civilian president and was able to sign a peace agreement with the Tuareg rebels in 1994, where they gained limited autonomy and geographical framework. Niger did not enjoy its third republic much, until the military re-intervened, and Colonel Ibrahim Bari overthrew President Osman in January 1996, after which Niger entered a huge wave of political and economic unrest, and western countries imposed an economic blockade that lasted for more than two years before Bari was killed. During the coup of Major Daouda Malam Wanki, the founder of a transitional period that turned to the presidency of the late President Mamadou Tanga, who ruled his country for two mandates and sought for the third one, before he clashed with the opposition's rejection. Then the military coup led by Colonel Sally Gebo – a current candidate For the presidential election – Niger is now living on the final days of the rule of the president who was elected for the second mandate, Mohamedou Youssoufou, who is willing to hand over power to his friend Mohamed Bazum, in a democratic transition that, in its own and domestic context, is not necessarily the most important remedy for Nigerien economic and security crises.
A transition in the space of the three mandates
The Nigerien elections take on a very important dimension as a democratic transition in a space that is living in what can be considered a democratic response, through returning to the three mandates. In Ivory Coast, Guinea Conakry, and in Burkina Faso, which has also experienced a political crisis caused by the second mandate. Therefore, the departure of Yusufu from power, and handing it over to his friend Bazum through the electoral process may be avoided and Niger alike fate similar to that of Mali. After the insistence of the ousted President Ibrahima Boubakar Keita on the candidacy of a third mandate and formulating a political class that owes him loyalty, and gives his family the instrument of continued looting and financial corruption unprecedented in the history of Mali. The elections in Niger are an exceptional case, similar to that of Mauritania, with outgoing President Mohamedou Youssoufou, who is willing to provide one of his closest friends, offering him the presidency, giving him multiple guarantees, for him, his family and his corrupt regime to the fullest stage.
Top candidates and the most important actors 30 candidates are competing in Nigerien presidential elections after another group of candidates were excluded, most notably opposition leader Hama Amadou, and some of the most prominent candidates in the elections:
He is the current prime minister and head of the country's ruling Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism, who belongs to the Ouled Suleiman tribe of the Arab minority. Bazum faces a campaign of questioning and breadth in his origins, where some consider that he is not originally Nigerien, and therefore does not have the right to be a candidate in the presidential elections, and despite this accusation, Bazum has remained for the past three decades, one of the most prominent political faces and active names in the scene of opposition and governance in his country.
Bazum returns geographically to the Diffa region, he is the holder of a postgraduate degree in philosophy from the University Of Dakar, Senegal. Moreover, a former leader of the Nigerien teachers' Union, and one of the most prominent opposition parliamentary figures that toppled the Government of Hama Amadou, during the rule of President Tenja Mohamedou.
Bazum held several sovereign positions under leadership of his friend Mohamedou Youssoufou, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally the Ministry of State for Interior and Security, which he has held so far up to now. Besides, Bazum is one of the Nigerien security cabinets. Through managing relations with Western powers through his various positions, and has over time become a man of trust and a bet for the West, especially France. Bazum has multiple strengths, most notably:
- The state and regime institutions stand behind him, making his chances of winning more, especially in a tribal country where democratic awareness is still below the level of voter autonomy in its decision or the competition of programs in its developmental and reformist contents.
- Western support, which focuses on stability and calamity and seeks to consolidate order in Niger, to narrow the cycle of security disturbances in Niger, which occasionally targets multiple Western centres and interests.
But Bazum also faces weaknesses, including the strong political campaign against him: a foreigner running for Nigerian presidency, the opposition has for the third time sought the Constitutional Court to prevent Bazum's candidacy as a non-Nigerien, that he is a hardline dictator who will throw his opponents in prison, and that he is merely a front for the rule of the Youssoufou family, accused of financial corruption and multiple opposition alliances, particularly the position of opposition leader Hama Amado, who has pledged to prevent Bazum from gaining power through election boxes.
Sally Gebo is one of the most important political figures seeking the presidency in Niger, and Gebo is the leader of the military coup that overthrew the late President Tenja Mohamedou in 2010 and oversaw presidential elections that ended with the victory of incumbent President Mohamedou Youssoufou.
Sally Gebo was expecting that Youssoufou would choose as a successor after him, which was the opposite. Gebo is a candidate under the authority of the Justice and Safety Party and is supported by several political figures, most notably ministers and officials during the transition he led, and it is not unlikely that he will win a significant percentage of voices through the vote of the military institution, which has been facing security unrest for years that has led to the deaths of hundreds of its members.
He dreams of returning to the presidency and a democratic return to the presidency as he was elected in 1993 before leaving with a military coup that overtook him from the power, after three years of turbulent rule. Mahaman Osman chairs the Republican-Democratic Renewal Party and hails from the famous eastern city of Zander, and this 70-year-old man has served as president of the parliament for two mandates from 1999 to 2009. At the same token, he has been the president of the ECOWAS parliament since 2006 to the present. Despite being one of the political names associated with democracy and struggle, he does not appear to be the most likely candidate to settle the quarterly elections in Nigerian history.
Sini Amaru and the third attempt Among the prominent names in Nigerian elections, Sini Amaru, who is a candidate for the third time, and although Amaru was a senior official in the regime of Youssoufou, as a personal representative of the President of the Republic. He is now working hard to become the factual president of the country. Having given Youssoufou his confidence and support to Mohamed Bazum, thus blocking the path of Sini Amaru. Sini belongs to the majority, but he is competing with the ruling party's candidate Mohamed Bazum, and has already achieved the third position in the presidential elections in 2016. But he now hopes to gain power, and it is unlikely that he will ally with Bazum if he is not his contender in the second round of the elections. As Sini Amaru is the most likely candidate to win the support of his friend opposition leader Hama Ado Amado, despite being a contender and defeated vis-à-vis Youssoufou in the elections of 2016.
The French press describes former Nigerien foreign minister and current presidential candidate Ibrahima Yacoub as a highly ambitious political wolf. The young diplomat had already won less than 5% of the vote in the 2016 presidential elections. Although he also came from the majority, he is now seeking to succeed Youssoufou and to win the presidency. Yacoub, 49 years-old, controlled the foreign ministry in Youssoufou’s government for two years before being resigned because of his "weak loyalty to the president" as his opponents accuse him. Yacoub presents himself as the candidate for youth and hopes for change that can achieve Nigerien goals of development and peace.
The most important scenarios expected. Although Mohamed Bazum has been campaigning since he announced his candidacy for the presidency three years ago, using the strength of the Nigerien state and its means and the strong and effective support of his friend President Mohamedou Youssoufou and his family. In addition to the support of international forces such as France and the United States of America, Bazum is considered as the godfather of security relations with the West during the past period. But his path to the presidency is not furnished with flowers, nor the steps are affordable, and he faces several scenarios, the most prominent of which are:
The scenario of decisiveness in the first round:
Although this option is difficult due to the intensity of the competition and the strength of the anti-Bazum campaign, it remains a possible option. He did not nominate control of power, has international support, and has been fighting his alliances and electoral coordination for more than three years. In addition to managing the file of the interior, which is considered the actual supervisor of the elections. Hence, observers rule out that Bazum will not be able to win in the first round without a strong and wide-ranging falsification of the results, which undoubtedly means a strong confrontation between the authority and the opposition, which is coming in all cases.
Second-round alliances option:
It can be said that the multiplicity of the heads of the opposition and the multiplicity of ambitions, will distract their electoral share. In contrast, it may weaken the share of the candidate of power, and push him to go for the second round, where the option of unity or alliance between some opposition forces will be logical and predictable. As for now, observers of the scene in Niger are foreseeing the position announced by opposition leader Hama Amadou, the sworn enemy of Mohamedou Youssoufou and his friend, especially as they demanded his supporters to wait for the decision to support one of the candidates. However, it is not possible to go far in saying that Bazum will not be lucky in the second round, as it is not unlikely that he will make breakthroughs in the alliance with some candidates, especially those coming from an atmosphere close to the authoritarian power.
The choice of the opposition candidate to win:
This option seems unlikely because of several circumstances, including the lack of transparency in the elections, the multiplicity of opposition figures, and the conflicting interests of the French position in particular, which supports change in the light of stability and calamity. Thus, there is no doubt that dealing with Bazum as president of the Republic will be easier and more positive for the Western powers than dealing with a new president and program.
Bazum and Youssoufou: Is the duo of Al-Ghazwani and Aziz repeated
Although Youssoufou is strongly motivated in supporting Muhammad Bazum, there is nothing to guarantee Youssoufou to have Putin-Medvedev's status, especially since Youssoufou's legacy is too heavy, and Bazum will not be able to preserve Youssoufou's interests, which in the most basic of all require the protection of the financial and moral corruption in which multiple parties of his family and his regime have drowned. The Mauritanian model, which has led to a rapid conflict between the current president Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazwani and his friend, former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, does not seem to be a distant prospect from the future scene in Niger. Because every new regime seems keen to make its mark, and as usual the fight against corruption and terrorism is the most prominent political slogan sought by the new regimes before they are scooped into the same mud.
Although these elections are central to Nigerien political trajectory, they do not represent a difference in the region, nor do they receive appropriate media attention due to the magnitude of the presidential event in Niger. Mohamed Bazum can be considered the most likely candidate to win his country's presidential elections, given previous considerations, including support from the state and its organs and control of the bodies overseeing the elections, whether it is the Independent Electoral Commission, the Constitutional Council, or the Interior Ministry. Niger's drift into violence cannot be ruled out if Bazum wins in the first round, which the Nigerien opposition considers impossible without blatant falsification. Niger's peaceful constitutional transition is receiving international attention, especially since Niger is the most violent platform in the region.