The 2021 elections in Niger resulted in claims that there was fraud which led to a number to consequential protests in the country for several days before the intervention of authorities to cease the protest and calm things down.
Problems and Purpose:
The problems that occurred in the 2021 Niger presidential elections were due to many irregularities throughout the voting process. Fraud was reported and people were intimidated to vote for Bazoum Mohamed by armed individuals. All these complaints were ignored by authorities, which led to protests and unrest in many parts of the country. Mahamane Ousmane who was the opposing candidate allied with other parties and called out to the supporters to protest.
Background History and Context:
The president at the time was Mahamadou Issoufou. He was elected in 2016 for his second term with 92% of votes. The results did not make sense to a number of people due to the fact that his popularity had dropped immensely while serving his first term and also due to the fact that fraud was detected but nothing was done about it. When Bazoum Mohamed, who was President Mahamadou Issoufous interior minister, decided to run for president, people felt like they were trying to hand him the power and keep it within their party, PNDS. There was a big uproar because first of all, there were many questions about Bazoum’s nationality. Many people believed he was not originally from Niger and therefore could not run for president. Documents and proof were taken to the courts, but later on dismissed by the courts. Second of all, the amount of corruption that had occurred during the last two terms of Mahamadou Issoufou was a record high. People were not about to reelect the same party. All these things led to high tensions during the election. Many ballot boxes were found, pre-election days filled with ballots in favor of Bazoum Mohahmed. There were also many irregularities statistically. There were regions in further parts of the country with less supervision where results showed more votes than registered members. Authorities did nothing about the complaints and ignored them. This led to a number of protests by the opposition where many were arrested, and they were killed.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities:
The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) is in charge of the organization and supervision of the elections. They are an independent organization and oversee the whole electoral process. They ensure the security, sensibilization, and materials. There are also other organizations that assist with facilitating the elections and providing funding like the Economic Committee of West African States ECOWAS and the African Union (AU).
Participant Recruitment and Selection:
The elections were between two parties, PNDS and CDS Rahama. Due to the injustice going on throughout the elections, CDS Rahama supporters around the country protested. Some protests were peaceful, while others turned violent. Parts of the cities were vandalized which led to the involvement of police forces. With the police getting involved, many protesters were beaten, arrested and some killed. The candidate Mahamane Ousmane had called out for massive protests and unrest until Justice was served.
Methods and Tools Used
The Court of Justice was responsible for hearing both parties, studying the facts and ruling. But the government as well did not sit back and wait for the court to rule. They sent out armed officers every time a protest was to occur. They also managed to shut down the internet in the whole country for 11 days, disabling a wide system for communication. They had realized that thousands of messages and groups were created through Whatsapp and that is how protests were being organized. With the internet being out it forced people to use regular text messages and phone calls which they could listen to. This led to many violent arrests.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation:
The results came out and Bazoum Mohamed was declared the winner with 55.75% votes and Mahamane Ousmane had lost with 44.25%. Mahamane Ousmane though declared himself winner and asked for a recount because statistically numbers did not add up and even the CENI had reported fraud. After recounting, reviewing the evidence, and hearing both sides, the court of Justice still ruled in Favor of Bazoum Mohamed.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects:
Bazoum Mohamed was sworn in as President April 2nd, 2021. This left many people disappointed and hopeless about the future of the country. The country was clearly divided, and people viewed the political system as rigged and corrupt. Because of Bazoum’s relations with the president and party in power, it seems like a lot of things were swept under the rug. Thankfully Mahamane Ousmane finally accepted Bazoum as president. This allowed for tensions within the population to drop.
Analysis and Lessons Learned:
In this case it seems like justice was not served. Despite all the fraud and irregularities that occurred, nothing was really done about it. No one was punished but instead, rewarded. This should not be the case for a democratic nation. However, I believe citizens participation through protests played a role in reconsidering the legitimacy of the candidate and the outcome of the vote which shows the importance of citizens participation. Hopefully in the coming years there will be a greater emphasis on public engagement which will lead to changes in the country.
Mueller, L., & Matthews, L. (2016, April 17). 4 things you should know about Niger’s recent elections. The Washington Post.
Elischer, S. (2021, March 18). Why it’s a big surprise that the African leadership prize went to Niger’s Issoufou. The Conversation.
Niger blacks out internet after presidential runoff election. (2021, March 1).
Oluwole, V. (2021, March 6). #WhatsHappeningInNiger: The internet shutdown in Niamey threatens Niger’s democracy and its people’s right to free speech. Business Insider Africa. https://africa.businessinsider.com/local/leaders/whatshappeninginniger-the-internet-shutdown-in-niamey-threatens-nigers-democracy-and/p7l4nhk
The Administration of Elections – niger – trans-saharan elections project. (n.d.). https://tsep.africa.ufl.edu/the-administration-of-elections/niger/
The first version of this case entry was written by Haoua Bello Barkire, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.