İrem UZUN -TDO- Niger's presidential election is headed to a runoff poll in February after the countries ruling party candidate failed to secure enough votes in the first round.

Mohamed Bazoum, a former head of Niger's interior and foreign ministries, led the first round with 39.33% of the vote, according to provisional results announced by the nation's electoral commission on Saturday. That falls short of the 50% he needed to win the presidency outright. Bazoum, an ally of President Mahamadou Issoufou, will square off against former president Mahamane Ousmane in the runoff. Ousmane collected 17% of the vote in the first round.

The West African country is expected to see its first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960, while jihadists in the region pose a growing threat. Some 7.4 million Nigeriens were registered to vote to elect the successor to President Mahamadou Issoufou. Issoufou announced last year that he would step aside after serving two five-year terms. He was elected to the presidency in 2011 after a military coup ousted his successor, Mamadou Tandja, in February 2010. 

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