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Ruling party candidate is projected winner of Niger presidential vote

The presidential candidate of Niger's ruling party looked set for a first-round win as his vote tally expanded on Friday. Provisional results showed Mohamed Bazoum as having garnered 1.4 million votes, only trailed by former president Mahamane Ousmane with 675,000. The electoral commission is expected to announce the final results Saturday in Niamey. Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba were on course for 345,000 and 260,000 votes respectively. The commission had provisionally earmarked Friday for the publication of the results but said this would now occur at 10 am (0900 GMT) Saturday at the Palais des Congres in Niamey. Over two dozen sought Niger's presidency. Insecurity overshadowed campaigning, with Niger attacked by extremists on its southwestern border with Mali as well as its southeastern frontier with Nigeria. Five years of violence have cost hundreds of lives with many more displaced. Bazoum, 60, a former interior and foreign minister, hopes to clinch victory in the first round, which would be a first in the former French colony that also hopes to see a first peaceful handover between elected presidents. Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country's last coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms. In a New Year radio address, he hailed the election as "a new, successful page in our country's democratic history."

Amazing Air Force One Facts That Only A Few Presidents Have Been Willing To Confess

Niger's ruling party appears on course to retain the presidency as partial results released Thursday showed candidate Mohamed Bazoum holding a big lead over his competitors. With 156 out of 266 electoral districts counted, Bazoum had crossed the one million vote mark while his closest rival - Mahamane Ousmane was in second place with 425,000 votes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said. The former interior minister in President Mahamadou Issoufou's government is aiming for a first-round victory, something that has never happened in the country. Bazoum, who benefited from the electoral machinery of his party and the state, promised to focus on security and education, especially for young girls. Niger is notorious for child marriages. With a fertility rate of almost 7 children per woman, it is the country with the highest fertility rate in the world followed only by Mali. One of the main challenges for the next president will be to curb militant attacks that have killed hundreds of people since 2010, and caused about 500,000 refugees and displaced persons to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. Affected by extremist violence, extreme poverty and climate change, Niger is looking to achieve its first ever democratic transition, with Issoufou handing over power after the end of his 10-year tenure.

Guinea Begins Administering Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 Vaccine

Moscow announced the registration of Sputnik V back in August after it had completed just the second phase of trials on under 100 volunteers, raising concerns from scientists among the international community. Dr Sakoba Keita, the Director-General of the National Health Security Agency, outlined the initiative. "We have ordered 2 million doses (from Russia) to be able to vaccinate vulnerable people and we have also placed orders in the People's Republic of China, all that in order to show the commitment of the government to go onto the offensive to use this latest strategy that served us well during the Ebola (outbreak)."

Mali charges former prime minister, five others with 'attempted coup'

Malian authorities on Thursday charged six prominent figures, including a former prime minister, with seeking to mount a coup, a move that came after a military takeover in August, their lawyers said. The public prosecutor's office in the capital Bamako said in a statement that six people were under investigation for "plotting against the government, criminal association, insulting the head of state and complicity." A group of lawyers defending the six said the individuals, who include Boubou Cisse, the prime minister at the time President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government was overthrown in August, had been charged with an "attempted coup." "All of those charged are civilian figures with no established connection to anyone in the military," they said. Five of the six have been detained in custody, except for Cisse, whose whereabouts are unknown, the public prosecutor said. Details about the affair are sketchy, but it comes at a time of turbulence following the ouster of Mali's elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, by young army officers on August 18. Threatened by international sanctions, the junta named an interim government which is supposed to last for up to 18 months until elections are held. But disenchantment at the slow pace of reforms is growing, fuelled by accusations that figures with army links dominate the transitional body. In its statement, the prosecutor's office did not use the term "attempted coup" as the attorneys did. It alleged there had been deeds that "harmed domestic security" and serious evidence of a "criminal enterprise" and "actions to sabotage" initiatives taken by the transitional authorities. On Monday, security sources said a number of people had been detained on December 21, while the prosecutor's office said a "preliminary inquiry" had been opened "relating to violations of state security". In the run-up to their arrest, social media said there had been a scheme to "destabilise" Mali's post-coup transitional institutions. Apart from Cisse, those charged include his half-brother Aguibou Tall, who runs an agency connected with telecommunications, and Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, a campaigner and radio presenter who is popular among young Malians and whose stage name is Ras Bath. The others are Vital Robert Diop, director of Mali's Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMI), an agency that is in charge of gambling on horse races, and two senior financial officials, Mamadou Kone and Souleymane Kansaye.

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