NIGER, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Niger’s top legal body approved 10 candidates for the West African state’s presidential election scheduled for Jan. 31, according to a statement read over state television late on Wednesday.
The poll is meant to complete a transition to civilian rule after a military coup in February toppled President Mamadou Tandja, who had drawn widespread criticism for rejigging the constitution to extend his mandate.
Among the candidates validated by the Constitutional Council were Mahamadou Issoufou of the prominent Tandja oppostion PNDS party, former parliamentary leader Mahamane Ousmane of the CDS party, and former Premier Hama Amadou of the MDN party.
The council also approved the candidacy of Niger’s first female presidential hopeful, Bayard Mariama Gamatie.
Only one prospective candidate was rejected by the council, on the grounds of questionable morality, the statement said.
Niger’s junta, led by General Salou Djibo, has set the election for Jan. 31 with a possible run-off on March 12 if no one wins a majority in the first round.
The election will follow those in fellow West African states Guinea and Ivory Coast, where a dispute over the winner of a Nov. 28 poll has threatened to rekindle the top cocoa grower’s 2002-03 civil war.
A poor desert nation, the uranium producer’s resource riches have drawn billions of dollars worth of investments, mainly from French nuclear giant Areva CEPFi.PA. China National Petroleum Corp CNPNET.UL is also developing oil fields in the southeast. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Louise Ireland)