Former interior minister garnered 55.75 percent of the votes, ahead of rival Mahamane Ousmane, at 44.25 percent, election commission announces.

Niger’s electoral commission has declared ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum the winner of the country’s presidential election runoff.

Bazoum had secured 55.75 percent of the votes cast on February 21, beating former President Mahamane Ousmane who garnered 44.25 percent, Issaka Souna, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), announced on Tuesday.

Outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms, opening the way to Niger’s first handover of power between elected leaders since independence from France in 1960.

The impoverished country in recent years has been struggling with armed group attacks that have spilled over from Mali in the west and Nigeria in the southeast.

On polling day, seven local workers with CENI were killed when their vehicle hit a land mine in the western region of Tillaberi.

On Monday, a similar device claimed the life of a polling station head in the southeastern region of Diffa. Nine other electoral workers were injured.

In the first round of voting, held on December 27, Bazoum, a former interior minister and Issoufou’s right-hand man, had picked up just over 39 percent of the vote. Ousmane came second, at just under 17 percent.

Ousmane became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1993, only to be toppled in a coup three years later. This was his fifth attempt at gaining the presidency since his overthrow.

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