- Voting underway in Niger to choose new President
-President Mahamadou Issoufou hopes to secure a second term of office
- 14 other contenders of the president include, Niger's first democratically elected president
- A run- off is expected in the elections
Voters in Niger are voting for to elect new presidents and parliamentary candidates under tight security conditions.
President Mahamadou Issoufou is contending with 15 other rivals who do not seem to have a chance of winning the president slot. One of the candidates in Sunday's presidential election, Ibrahim Hamidou, was arrested for casting doubt upon December's alleged coup but was released in January against the wishes of state prosecutors.
Aside from Hama Amadou, a former Prime Minister, other well-known figures among the crowded field of 14 presidential candidates include Mahamane Ousmane, Niger's first democratically elected president. A run-off will be held if no candidate secures an outright victory on Sunday.
President Mahamadou Issoufou who is hopeful of securing a second term in the impoverished West African nation has his main rival, Hama Amadou behind bars because he has been accused of trafficking babies, a charge he strongly denies. The elections observed tight security amid fears of jihadist attacks by groups based in neighbouring Nigeria, Mali and Libya.
The run-up to the vote has been marred by accusations of repression and a row over identification documents. The authorities have announced that roughly 1.5 million people without ID papers will be able to cast their ballots by having witnesses vouch for them, in a move that was condemned by opposition leaders.
Niger is rich in natural resources, including uranium and oil, but is one of the poorest countries on earth, ranking last in the UN Human Development Index. Niger is seen as an important ally of Western powers in the fight against militant Islamists in the fragile Sahara region.