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Niger opposition refuses to recognize vote

Citing fraud, opponents of Nigerien President Issoufou have rejected provisional election results. Issoufou came out with a clear lead over rival Hama Amadou, who campaigned from inside a prison cell.

The opposition parties in Niger rejected the initial results of the country's presidential election as fraudulent on Tuesday after the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou was in the lead. CENI's provisional results gave the president 40.18 percent, a clean ten points over his nearest rival.

"These results are completely contrary to what was expressed at the ballot box," said Amadou Boubacar Cisse, one of Issoufou's rival candidates and spokesman for the Coalition for Change group of opposition parties.

In a hotly fought election season, Issoufou had promised to reduce extreme poverty and fight off Islamist insurgencies should he win a second five-year term.

Issoufou, popularly known in Niger as the "lion," said the fraud allegations against him were politically motivated.

Despite being rich in some natural resources, the landlocked country on the edge of the Sahara consistently scores at the bottom of the United Nations' Human Development Index and its hard-won stability has been threatened by violence spilling over from jihadist groups based in neighboring Mali, Nigeria, and Libya.

Critics of Issoufou have charged him with crushing dissent and having rivals jailed ahead of

Sunday's elections

. The lead opposition candidate, Hama Amadou, was even forced to campaign from jail. Once an ally of Issoufou, the one-time speaker of parliament, Amadou broke with the president in 2013 and fled to France. He was arrested in November upon his return to Niger on human trafficking charges.

According to CENI's announcement, Amadou had garnered 29 percent of the vote, trailing Issoufou by a significant margin.

es/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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