Niamey - Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou on Thursday had a commanding lead in his quest for a second term in the uranium-rich African nation after elections the opposition has denounced as rigged.
With 4.9 million votes from Sunday's election counted -- representing two-thirds of the 7.5-million strong electorate -- the 63-year-old incumbent had nearly 50 percent, well ahead of his closest rival, detained former parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou.
Amadou, who is behind bars on baby trafficking charges he says were concocted, had garnered only just over 16 percent, while former prime minister Seini Oumarou had about 11 percent, the electoral commission said.
Issoufou's aides told AFP they were confident the man nicknamed the "Lion" would make good on his promise to deliver a "knockout blow" to his opponents in the first round.
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The final score could be announced later Thursday, electoral officials said. Turnout in the areas that have announced results so far was over 67 percent.
Issoufou needs 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.
The opposition had on Tuesday already declared it would not recognise the result, saying the election was rigged in Issoufou's favour.
"Clearly, everything has been organised for a first-round win (by Issoufou). The official results have yet to be announced but it's so obvious," Amadou Boubacar Cisse, one of his challengers, told AFP on Thursday.
A total of 15 candidates ran for president of the vast impoverished country on the edge of the Sahara Desert, which has been rocked over the past year by attacks by Boko Haram jihadists operating out of neighbouring Nigeria. Voters also cast ballots for members of parliament.
The African Union, which deployed 40 observers, said it was generally satisfied with the organisation of the vote despite delays in some areas caused by logistical glitches.