Seven months after a coup overthrew Niger's civilian government, few voters turned out today in the election to replace the military junta.
While official polling results had not been announced, checks at polling booths around the capital Niamey and reports from the interior reflected light turnout. There were no reports of violence.
Polling officials began counting ballots tonight in the presidential and legislative elections. The country's national electoral commission said results are not expected until early next week because of the vastness of the country and poor communications.
Voter turnout, which had been extremely low in the morning, increased only slightly in the afternoon. Regional electoral officials said that in rural areas many farmers had first gone to their plantations before voting.
Most Nigeriens, frustrated after years of misrule under civilian and military governments, showed little interest in the vote.
"I think that after these elections Niger will have an economic renaissance," proclaimed Ali Ado, a Niamey merchant who then admitted he was not planning to vote, saying he had no loyalty to any particular political party.
But the country's junta leader said he was pleased the elections had come off.
"I'm proud and satisfied because the Nigerien people are demonstrating to the entire world that they are capable of . . . national reconciliation," Maj. Daouda Mallam Wanke said.
Wanke took control of Niger in April after President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara was assassinated by members of his presidential guard unit, which Wanke headed.
But Wanke has kept his word, so far, to return this country to civilian rule. On Tuesday, he pledged that his government would remain neutral and promised free and fair elections.
The new president is slated to take office Jan. 1.
About 4 million people had been expected to vote in today's second round. The results will determine a replacement for Wanke and the members of the new 83-seat national assembly.
A first round of presidential voting was held Oct. 17, but none of the seven candidates received the majority required to win outright.
Retired military officer Tandja Mamadou, who won 32 percent of the vote in the first round, faced Mahamadou Issoufou, a prime minister in the only previous democratically elected government, who came in second with 22 percent. Mamadou was part of a military regime that governed the country during the 1970s.
The stakes are high for Niger, one of the world's poorest countries. Foreign donors are withholding almost all aid until Wanke restores democratic rule.
The October ballot was judged generally free and fair by election monitors, despite minor logistical problems. Just under 44 percent of registered voters participated in the vote. Niger has a population of about 9.7 million.