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Chaos Mars Nigerian Vote

Prepared by: Stephanie Hanson
April 23, 2007

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Widespread allegations of vote rigging, a severe shortage of ballots, and pockets of violence dashed hopes for a clean election in Nigeria, leading the country’s largest election monitoring group and others to demand the results be annulled (BBC). Opposition parties denounced the vote and blamed the governing party for the botched poll, threatening to contest the results in court (AP). Nigeria ’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced it will cancel the result of any elections “where its integrity is in doubt,” but its chairman praised the poll, calling it a “tremendous effort” (ISN). On Monday, Nigerian President Olesugun Obasanjo’s chosen successor was declared the vote’s winner (Reuters).

In many states voters showed up to the polls (NYT) but ballots did not, delaying voting or preventing it altogether. Nigeria’s This Day breaks down the logistical problems and violence its correspondents witnessed in twenty-two of Nigeria’s thirty-six states. The International Republican Institute’s electoral delegation pronounced the vote worse than Nigeria ’s previous elections in 1999 and 2003, which were both considered deeply flawed. 

The myriad problems with the presidential vote were a continuation of the violence and vote rigging (IHT) documented across the country during gubernatorial elections on April 14. During that vote, ballot boxes were stuffed with votes in favor of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, voting did not take place at all in several parts of the Niger Delta, and thugs beat up opposition party officials in Oyo state, according to a Human Rights Watch news release, based on accounts from journalists and election observers on the scene. Analysts say both elections mark a distinct setback for the country that may lead Nigerians to lose confidence in democracy altogether (NYT).

INEC has drawn fire for its bungling of the election process from voter registration through presidential elections. An editorial in the Vanguard says “Few democracies—that live up to that name—can survive under this type of INEC,” and calls for a new body that is not politicized. Prior to the elections, INEC disqualified Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a top opposition leader and rival to President Olusegun Obasanjo, and several other opposition candidates accused of corruption. But in an eleventh-hour ruling, the Supreme Court declared April 16 that Atiku had the right to run (LAT). This forced INEC to print 65 million new ballots before the polls. Reports indicate these ballots—without numbers and some without names and pictures of the candidates—were in short supply at many polling stations.

A new Council Special Report on Nigeria warns that Obasanjo’s successor will not have his same strong domestic and international standing. As a result, it says, “effective leadership for change will be wanting.” Though Nigeria’s institutions improved under Obasanjo, corruption is still endemic and many government entities are politicized, explains this new Backgrounder. The Economist argues that the ruling party’s struggle to maintain power has discredited so many of Nigeria’s institutions that the country “now seems more a prisoner of its bleak past than a beacon for the future.”

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