Niger presidential ballots Photograph:( Reuters )
The election should mark the first peaceful transfer of power in the history of the coup-prone former French colony
Voters in the poor West African country of Niger cast ballots Sunday in municipal and regional polls two weeks ahead of a presidential election which the incumbent, Mahamadou Issoufou, will not contest because his two terms are up.
The ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) is the overwhelming favourite in Sunday's poll and its presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum is the runaway frontrunner in the December 27 ballot.
Some 7.4 million people are eligible to vote in the long-delayed polls in the country's 266 municipalities.
Many parts of the Sahel country's west and southeast have suffered repeated jihadists attacks since 2015, preventing people from registering to vote, according to the national electoral commission CENI.
Polls close at six pm (1700 GMT).
Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 and 2016, has won praise for his decision to step aside for a successor, unlike some counterparts on the continent who have pushed through constitutional changes in order to extend their presidencies.
The election should mark the first peaceful transfer of power in the history of the coup-prone former French colony.
Bazoum, 60, a former interior and foreign minister under Issoufou, is among 30 candidates in the race.
Last month Niger's constitutional court blocked main opposition leader Hama Amadou, 70, from running over a 2017 conviction for baby-smuggling, a case he claimed was politically motivated.