Ex-Niger president Ousmane to stand in February election

Niger's former president Mahamane Ousmane became the first democratically elected president of the vast west African state 1993 but was toppled in a coup three years later (AFP Photo/Boureima Hama)

Niamey (AFP) - Former Niger leader Mahamane Ousmane will challenge incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou for the presidency in February elections, the opposition MNRD party told AFP.

"Our political bureau on Saturday named Mahamane Ousmane as a candidate in the 2016 presidential election," the party said in a statement at the end of an extraordinary party congress.

The 66-year-old became the first democratically elected president of the vast west African state 1993 but was toppled in a coup three years later.

In every presidential election since he has sought a fresh mandate.

Ousmane's nomination by the MNDR, a relative newcomer to Niger politics, was seen as a backup option for the politician after he lost the nomination of his own CDS party to CDS deputy leader Abdou Labo.

Ousmane is among several candidates, including opposition leader Seyni Oumarou of the MNSD party, whom Issoufou will face in his quest for a second term.

The incumbent came to office in 2011 in a vote organised by a military junta which in 2010 overthrew president Mamadou Tandja.

Former parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou and ex-planning minister Amadou Boubacar Cisse have also announced their candidacies.

The political climate in the arid Sahel state has been tense since Amadou joined the opposition in 2013.

Amadou has been in prison for more than six weeks over allegations he was involved in baby trafficking.

Labo has also been implicated in the affair. He is currently out on bail.

The election commission late last month announced that the first round of voting would be held on February 21, followed by a run-off on March 20 if necessary.

The opposition has rejected the timeline, saying there had been no consensus on the dates.