afrol News, 11 March - With Saturday's second-round presidential elections, Niger ends a model one-year all-inclusive democratic transition process. The process could be an example for the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
After a military coup one year ago, toppling increasingly authoritarian President Mamadou Tandja, the military junta instantly left most of the democratic transition process to Niger's civil society groups and political parties. The junta's promise of a "model democracy" is nearing its fulfilment.
During the last year, new pro-democracy legislation has been adopted after civil society advice; a new constitution has been accepted through a referendum; new institutions have been created to secure democracy and the separation of powers; and on 31 January the first round of the presidential polls were held, without any candidate from the military junta.
According to the Nigerien Independent national election commission (CENI), long-time opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou won 36 percent of the votes in the first round. Former Prime Minister Seďni Oumarou of the ousted President's MNSD party came second with 23 percent of votes.
On Saturday 12 March, Nigerien voters will decide between Mr Issoufou and Mr Oumarou in a run-off poll. Both have had equal access to media and military junta leaders have not revealed which of the candidates they would prefer. International election observers so far have not noted any significant irregularities during the election process so far.
r during the reign of the upcoming President, several preparations have been made. Most significantly, both main parties now competing in the run-off have participated in all parts of the transition process, having an ownership to the new legislation and institutions.
Also, both candidates have been urged to commit to democratic principles. Both have, for example, endorsed the Declaration of Table Mountain - a far-reaching press freedom declaration - thus committing to promote freedom of expression and review existing media laws if elected.
With a vamped-up CENI that has achieved widespread accept for its ability to organise free and fair elections, also both candidates are expected to accept defeat. In any way, Niger's opposition leader is promised an important and influential role according to the new constitution.
So far, the military junta still ruling Niger has come close to organising a model democratic transition. Unfortunately, the Nigerien transition process has earned little international attention.
It could have been a useful model for the transitional authorities in power in Tunisia and Egypt; and for the ongoing struggle by protesters to take the revolution further into a real democracy.
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