Niamey - Niger's fragmented opposition has formed a coalition with the aim of ensuring that elections early next year will not be "commandeered" by the incumbent president.
"We are deciding to oblige President Mahamadou Issoufou... to organise inclusive, free, transparent and fair elections," the Patriotic and Republican Front (FPR) said in a statement Monday.
"With a view to handing himself a second term, President Issoufou and his clan have decided to commandeer and exploit all the organisational structures of the electoral process," the statement charged.
The coalition comprising around 30 parties, civil society groups and labour unions includes former parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou, Issoufou's main rival, as well as ex-prime minister Seyni Oumarou and former president Mahamane Ousmane.
The political climate in the poor Sahel country has been tense since Amadou joined the opposition in 2013.
Amadou went into exile in France a year ago after becoming one of some 20 people accused of trafficking in newborn babies, a charge he maintained was politically motivated.
Issoufou's regime has denied the allegation.
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The president said early this month that he would not condone rigged elections, pledging the vote would be transparent and fair.
The election commission late last month announced that the first round of voting would be held on February 21, followed by a run-off on March 20 if necessary.
But the opposition has rejected the timeline, saying there had been no consensus on the dates.
Local elections are set for May 9.
The former French colony has not achieved a smooth transition of power through elections since its first democratic polls in 1993, with a series of military coups resolving past political crises.
Under a new voter registration process, some 7.5 million people in a population of 17 million are expected to be eligible to vote in the upcoming elections.