NIAMEY — The ruling party of President Mamadou Tandja swept the majority of seats in legislative elections shunned by the opposition, preliminary results showed Friday.
Tandja's party won 68 of 100 constituencies that have reported their results so far, with nearly 90 percent of votes counted, the head of the Independent Electoral Commission Moumouni Hamidou said on state television.
Four small parties aligned to Tandja's regime took 21 seats, while 11 went to independent candidates.
In all, 113 seats were up for grabs in Tuesday's elections, held despite opposition from Niger's neighbours and the international community, which had called for a delay.
Critics see the legislative poll as helping Tandja, 71, to potentially stay in office for the rest of his life in this uranium-producing west African country.
Tandja organised the election in defiance of regional and international calls for a postponement, to replace a parliament he dissolved in June after it opposed his plans to extend his term beyond the 10-year limit.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) immediately kicked out Niger from its bloc after it held the controversial election and said it would not recognise the outcome of the vote.
But Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou hit back at the expulsion saying the regional bloc misunderstood the political dynamics of the country.
Niger wants the bloc to reconsider its decision. A meeting of the political actors of Niger is due to be held in neighbouring Nigeria on Friday October 30.
Tandja's stance has also infuriated Niger's main aid donor, the European Union, which on Thursday repeated its threat to sever ties to pressure Niamey to restore constitutional order.
The results so far showed turnout of between 18 and 80 percent, depending on different constituencies. Fewer people bothered to cast their ballots in the capital Niamey while turnout was heavy in the countryside where the most impoverished live.
The latest United Nations human development index report, which measures standards of living, placed Niger at the bottom of its list, making it the worst country in the world to live in.
Despite the uranium, the majority of the 15 million people in this landlocked country on the edge of the Sahara desert live on subsistence farming, continually threatened by drought and locusts.
Tandja won a referendum in August that extended his term, which was to end in December, for three more years. The opposition described the vote as a "coup d'etat."
Before holding the referendum, Tandja sacked the country's parliament and the constitutional court after they declared it illegal.
Niger has over the past decade enjoyed rare stability in a region that was better known for coups and military take overs.
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