Niger to hold presidential election on February 21

Thousands take part in a demonstration on June 6, 2015 in Niamey against President Mahamadou Issoufou's regime (AFP Photo/Boureima Hama)

Niamey (AFP) - The first round of Niger's presidential election will be held on February 21 in 2016, the country's election commission said, with incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou set to seek a second term.

"The first round of the presidential election, along with legislative elections, will take place on Sunday, February 21, 2016," Ibrahim Boube, the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni), announced at a press conference.

A run-off round in the presidential vote is scheduled for March 20.

Issoufou, facing a fragmented opposition, said last month he wanted to ensure next year's presidential and parliamentary elections were "transparent".

The impoverished Sahel nation has a population of 17 million, but only 6.7 million people were registered to vote in the previous poll in 2011.

Under a new voter registration process, some 7.5 million people are expected to be eligible to vote in the upcoming polls.

The political climate in Niger has been tense since former parliament speaker Hama Amadou joined the opposition in 2013, becoming Issoufou's main rival.

Then Amadou became one of some 20 people accused of trafficking in newborn babies, a charge he maintained was politically motivated.

Issoufou's regime has denied this allegation.