Niger's presidential election passed without incident on Sunday with President Mahamadou Issoufou saying the country, which is fighting Islamist insurgents on multiple fronts, will need peace and security before it can develop its economy.

Issoufou, who has campaigned on his record of preventing Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram from setting up a base in the country, told reporter after casting his ballot in the capital, Niamay, that Niger is "the only winner" in the election.

"This is a great day for Niger and for our institutions," he said in comments broadcast on the French news site La Voix de l'Amerique.

"There will be only one winner, it will be Niger. Niger needs peace and security to continue on the path of progress, economic and social development."

Some 7.5 million voters were registered to vote in the election with candidates also competing for 171 legislative seats.

Apart some voting stations in Niamay reported to have opened late, there were no major incidents by 1530 GMT on election day.

Issoufou, of the Socialist Party, is a former prime minister as well as a mathematician and mining engineer, who is known locally as "lion." He was elected president in 2011.

Political tensions erupted in 2013, when the speaker of the parliament, Hama Amadou, broke from the ruling coalition and became the main challenger to Issoufou.

In August 2014, Amadou, 66, fled to France after he was accused of trafficking babies. He has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Amadou was arrested in November 2015 after returning to Niger. He was denied bail in January, but given the all-clear to run in the election for the Nigerian Democratic Movement party.

Seini Oumarou, 65, a runner-up to Issoufou in the 2011 presidential race, is also among the 15 contenders. 

Apart from political turmoil, the landlocked country of 17 million - which ranked last out of 188 countries and territories on the UN's human development index in 2015 - is under constant threat from al-Qaeda-linked fighters to the north and west and Boko Haram group in the south.

Violent clashes between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army have displaced thousands of civilians, many of who have sought refuge in Niger's Diffa region, which is suffering massive food shortages and experiencing an "unprecedented humanitarian crisis," according to the World Bank.

Niger is also experiencing low average rainfall, which is reducing agriculture output while international demand for its main commodity exports, uranium and oil, is low and impacting economic growth.

Should no winner take an outright majority, a second round of elections is due to take place on March 20.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.