Niger’s constitutional court has blocked the main opposition leader Hama Amadou from running in December’s presidential election but gave the green light to ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum.
“The Court declares ineligible for the presidential election Hama Amadou du Moden” of the Nigerian Democratic Movement, court president Bouba Mahamane announced without giving any reason during a hearing in Niamey.
Amadou said last month he considered there were no obstacles to his running again for the country’s presidency despite his past conviction for infant smuggling.
President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 and 2016, is barred by term limits from running for re-election, and the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism has nominated former interior minister Bazoum to run to succeed him.
Amadou received a presidential pardon in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, with less than three months remaining to serve of his one-year prison sentence.
The former premier was convicted along with one of his wives in March 2017 for their alleged role in a child-trafficking ring.
The case — which he and his supporters decried as a political witch hunt — allegedly involved smuggling of babies from Nigeria via Benin for wealthy couples in Niger.
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While the constitution is silent on past convictions, the country’s electoral code can bar candidates, although it is not automatic.
“The government wants to bar me from being a candidate as it tried to do in 2016,” Amadou said in October. “I intend to be a candidate, and to win the election.”
Amadou, dubbed “The Phoenix” for his political comebacks, was runner-up in 2016 even though he ran from behind bars while awaiting trial.
The court also blocked a dozen other candidates from taking part in the first round of the presidential election, coupled with legislative polls, set for December 27 in the former French colony.
Bazoum was among 30 candidates to have their candidacy approved by the court.
Several other parties are also fielding candidates.