On Tuesday, Niger's electoral commission announced the provisional winner of the election for President. Was our forecast correct? What can we improve for next time? And what does the next president mean for the region?
Last Sunday, Nigeriens headed to the polls once again to vote for their next President in a historic election which would mark Niger’s first peaceful transition of power since its independence in 1960. The two candidates to replace President Issoufou were former Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum and former ousted President Mahamane Ousmane, the top two candidates from the first-round of voting.
- In the December 2020 vote, Bazoum won 48.43% of the vote and Ousmane won 48.43% of the vote.
This Tuesday, Niger’s electoral commission released provisional results from the February 21 vote. Mohamed Bazoum was declared the winner, securing 55.75% of the vote while Ousmane garnered 44.25%.
- By comparison, Issoufou won 58.04% of the vote in 2011.
As is tradition with most 2020-21 elections, Ousmane has alleged election fraud against his opponent, claiming that some sources tallied the second round of the presidential election with Ousmane claiming victory, yielding 50.3% of the vote.
Police have also clashed with Ousmane supporters in Niger’s capital of Niamey who have been convinced of Bazoum’s transgressions. And on election day, seven poll workers were killed when their car hit an explosive device on the road.
Leaders of the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad have all reached out to acknowledge and commend Bazoum’s victory, making Ousmane’s claims of victory ultimately moot, however the Constitutional Court of Niger still has to verify the results.
In our initial forecast, we gave Bazoum a 91.69% chance of winning the election should it go to a second-round vote.
And before the election, we released a modified forecast on Twitter, where we said the following:
How well did our forecasts perform?
So by comparison, our second-round prediction was pretty 🔥🔥🔥.
Even on its own merits, we feel the prediction was generally strong–with 95% being the correct ex-facto number we feel. On the other hand, we feel we probably hedged too much with the Twitter prediction. While we accurately understood and realized that Bazoum would not perform like Issoufou, we overestimated the degree to which he would under-perform.
Although we did not make a final prediction on vote totals, we offered a few rough estimates in our last Niger prediction retrospective which hovered in the 60-68% range. And during our calculations for our twitter prediction, we pegged Bazoum’s coalition vote share to range from 54-58%, which was fairly spot on.
Taken together, we feel our method was strong at predicting the likelihood of Bazoum winning the Niger Election for President, however we still feel there is room for improvement in our accuracy about predicting vote shares.
After a protracted election cycle spanning two rounds, Bazoum now faces a set of impending challenges as he approaches his first few days in office. Not only is Bazoum inheriting a nation rife with ethnic and political cleavages, but he also is inheriting a nation reeling from several displays of civil conflict.
Of the utmost importance for Bazoum will be securing Niger’s borders to the north, specifically with Mali, Libya, and Algeria. As al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was hit hard in 2020, they began moving south towards the Sahel region of Africa. As we’ve covered in previous articles, this region has been rife with terrorist activities carried out by violent non-state actors. In fact, Niger recorded an 176% increase in terrorism deaths attributed to Boko Haram in 2019.
Bazoum will need to stymie these threats by shoring up Niger’s borders and increasing military presence in Niger’s northeast. Bazoum will also need to succeed in these security efforts if he hopes to bring Niger more into the international arena, more closely partnering with its G5 Sahel state partners to bring economic prosperity to Niger.
Additionally, Niger is still in the midst of attempting its first ever democratic transition of power, and Bazoum has a chance of making Nigerien history if he is able to quell the discontent within the citizenry and retain legitimacy as Niger’s next president. To do this, he will also need to address food insecurity, poverty, and lacking education in the country as well.
Bazoum's Victory and Uranium
Finally, Bazoum’s victory will likely have an effect on Niger’s uranium activity in the coming years. Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world, but it also often ranks between 5th and 6th in the world when it comes to producing uranium.
- We wrote more about Niger’s uranium position in our initial prediction on this election.
With Iran’s nuclear program up in the air, and Bazoum coming into an administration looking to expand uranium mining and the industry continues to spike in 2021, Niger may become a focal player in rare earths.
In 2013, then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Niger on what was perceived to be a uranium reconnaissance mission. Bazoum, then Foreign Affairs Minister of Niger, stressed how important he felt it was that Niger obey global regulations relating to uranium, in spite of Iran’s economic woes. It is not likely that Niger will succumb to any legal issues that would jeopardize its future with uranium, as Bazoum has proven to be an effective steward of the country’s resources.
Licensing new exploration and drilling in Niger will be especially important as past dips in spot price, as well as the coronavirus pandemic have severely hit Niger’s economy.
- This move further into uranium will also bring Niger closer with France, it’s primary uranium export partner.
- While their relationship has primarily revolved around security issues in the past, a more robust uranium industry could make Niger’s a valuable economic ally to a European powerhouse, in turn increasing its relevance regionally as well.