Mahamadou Issoufou is the new president of Niger By AFP | Monday, March 14  2011 at  15:08

Mahamadou Issoufou of the Social Democratic Party acknowledges the crowd during a campaign meeting in Niamey on on March 8, 2011. AFRICA REVIEW | FILE 

Veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou has won elections intended to return Niger to civilian rule after a military coup, taking 57.95 per cent of the vote, the election commission announced Monday.

Issoufou, 59, defeated former prime minister Seini Oumarou, 60, who took 42.05 per cent of the votes cast in a runoff election on Saturday, electoral commission chief Gousmane Abdourahamane said.

Voter turnout was 48.17 per cent, down from 51.56 per cent in the first round on January 31, he said.

Oumarou is a former ally of President Mamadou Tandja, who was toppled in a military coup in February 2010 after he attempted to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limits.

Issoufou, a longtime opponent of Tandja's rule, was the favourite after taking the lead in the first round vote on January 31.

End a crisis

The Social Democratic Party leader strengthened his candidacy by forging alliances, especially with Hama Amadou, another former premier under Tandja, who garnered 19 per cent in the first round vote.

Niger's junta vowed to usher in a civilian government after it took power last year to end a crisis triggered by Tandja's attempts to extend his mandate. No junta member ran in the election.

"If we can hold a successful election then together we will have accomplished bringing about a democracy that can serve as an example to Africa," junta leader General Salou Djibo said as he cast his ballot on Saturday.

Djibo, among the first to cast his ballot, urged candidates to respect the outcome of the vote and asked the loser “to accept his defeat". The junta leader is scheduled to hand over to Issoufou on April 6.