Electoral gains for Nigerian president


NIGERIA: President Olusegun Obasanjo's ruling party made important gains as early results were released yesterday in Nigeria's first civilian-run parliamentary election in 20 years.

As the first results in Africa's biggest-ever election were announced, the head of Nigeria's electoral agency sought to play down the violence and fraud which marred polling in some regions.

"The reports that we have received from most parts of the country indicate that voting was for the most part peaceful ...Voting took place in over 95 per cent of areas," Mr Abel Guobadia told reporters.

Monitors agreed that voting passed off peacefully in most areas, but in the troubled southeast there were reports of widespread violence, intimidation and attempted ballot-rigging.

With 24 of 360 seats in the House of Representatives and four of 109 senatorial districts having been declared by 5 p.m. (1600 GMT), it was too early to estimate the result or the turnout on a national level.

However, Mr Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party (PDP) had a good start, winning 20 of the lower house seats and all but one of the senatorial battles. It was also making inroads into opposition-held regions of the south-west.

His party was polling 53.95 per cent of votes cast in declared House of Representatives constituencies, twice as high a share of the vote as any of the 29 trailing parties, with 8 per cent of registered voters accounted for.

If the PDP continues to do well in the remaining seats it will provide a springboard for Mr Obasanjo's own re-election bid next Saturday, when Nigeria's presidential and state governorship elections are held.

The elections are seen as the first key test of what Nigerians still call their "democratic experiment".