NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou has broadened his coalition ahead of a presidential run-off election, and now has the support of four politicians whose combined first round score was about 30 percent.
The announcement could make him a firm favourite in the March 12 run-off against Seyni Oumarou, candidate of the former ruling party -- if voters follow the alliance.
The election is meant to cement the restoration of civilian rule nearly a year since soldiers ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a coup that was sparked by the former leader's efforts to extend his rule of the uranium producing country.
In a joint statement, Amadou Cheffou, Moussa Moumouni Djermakoye and Amadou Boubacar Cisse said late on Thursday they would be joining third-placed Hama Amadou in backing Issoufou.
Amadou took about 20 percent of the first round, while the other three scored a combined tally of around 10 percent. Issoufou led in the first round with 36 percent, with Oumarou taking second place with 23 percent.
The parties agreed to work together for Issoufou's campaign, including in the sharing of costs, in return for a power-sharing deal. No details were given.
Oumarou has been building his own coalition of some 20 parties, and initially looked the favourite, though momentum appears to be gaining behind his rival.
Niger is a poor desert nation whose uranium riches have drawn billions of dollars worth of investments, mainly from French nuclear giant Areva.
It is also struggling against a rising threat from al Qaeda-linked fighters, who have kidnapped westerners in remote desert regions and attacked army units. Last month the group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Frenchmen in the capital, Niamey.