Niger voters pick president in return to civil rule

Niamey, March 12 (Agencies): The people of Niger voted for a new civilian president on Saturday in landmark polls that the outgoing head of the military junta said should serve an example of democracy to the whole of Africa.
Thirteen months after Mamadou Tandja was jettisoned from office over his attempts to amend the constitution, voters were choosing between a former ally of the toppled president and a veteran opposition leader in the runoff poll. General Salou Djibo, installed as leader of the junta after the February 2010 coup, was among the first to cast his ballot as polls opened at 0700 GMT.
"This is a great day for me and for all the people of Niger," Djibo said. "If we can hold a successful election then together we will have accomplished bringing about a democracy that can serve as an example to Africa," he told reporters at a polling station in the capital Niamey.
The run-off pits veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou, 59, against former prime minister Seini Oumarou, the 60-year-old leader of Tandja's party. Issoufou, a longtime opponent of Tandja's 10-year rule, is considered the favourite after taking the lead in the first round vote on January 31 with 36 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for second place Oumarou.
Niger's ruling junta vowed to usher in civilian government after it took power last year to end a crisis triggered by Tandja's attempts to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limits. No junta member was a candidate in the election.