January 4, 2016 / 11:50 PM / 3 years ago

Niger voter register fit for election if changes made - report

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger’s electoral register is good enough to enable the country to go ahead with an election on Feb. 21 as long as certain changes are made, the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) said in a report on Monday.

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou attends Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Nigeira June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

The changes include getting rid of around 300 ‘ghost’ polling stations and 25,000 voters who have been counted twice, said the organization.

President Mahamadou Issoufou is running for a second term and is favorite to win but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian and has unleashed a campaign of repression before the polls.

In December, the opposition rejected the register, or list of eligible voters, saying the process did not meet their demands.

The government agreed to the demand for an audit in a bid to ensure a transparent election but the opposition then withdrew from the panel selecting a firm to carry out the review, saying no satisfactory candidate had been found.

“The electoral register submitted for our checks may be used but ... on condition that the following recommendations are put into practice,” said Siaka Sangare, head of the OIF commission of experts which reviewed the register.

All sides including the electoral authority welcomed the report.

“We think we can move forward with transparent elections,” said Ousseini Salatou, an opposition spokesman.

Niger is an impoverished country in West Africa that produces uranium and has a history of instability and coups.

Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Bill Rigby

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