Niger is set for a second round of voting as no candidate clinched the needed majority for a first-round win in the Dec. 27 vote.
Former prime minister and favorite to win Mohammed Bazoum, of the ruling party, came first with 39.33 percent of the vote.
He will go head to head with former president Mahamane Ousmane, who placed second with 16.99 percent of votes, according to results announced by the electoral commission Saturday.
The right-hand man of outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou, who was hoping for a one-touch victory in the first round, will now have to seek alliances before the second round of polls on Feb. 20.
Voter turnout was pegged at 69.67 percent, with 5.2 million voters out of 7.4 million registered voters out of a population of 23 million. These must be validated by the Constitutional Court.
Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou was third, Albadé Abouba, fourth, obtaining 8.95 percent and 7.07% of the votes, ahead of former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yacouba, who was fifth with 5.38% of the votes, respectively.
The other former president in contention, Salou Djibo, came in sixth with 2.99% of the vote.
This is the first time in Niger’s history that an elected president will succeed another elected president.
A key hurdle for the winner of the February run-off vote will be to stem jihadist attacks in the Sahelian country that have killed hundreds of people.
Some 500,000 refugees and others have been displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations.