Umaru Yar’Adua, the chosen successor of President Olusegun Obasanjo, was declared a landslide winner on Monday in presidential elections that foreign and domestic observers and the US government have branded deeply flawed.
The results have cast a shadow over whether Nigeria ’s political transition will take place peacefully, amid calls by opposition leaders to annul the elections and government accusations that some politicians have been fomenting a coup. It also contributed to oil prices rising to $68 a barrel on worries that Nigeria – Africa ’s biggest producer – could be affected by the disputed elections.
Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary polls were held a week after Nigeria held governorship elections that were marred by violence, intimidation and fraud and which gave Mr Yar’Adua’s ruling People’s Democratic party control over 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
As European Union election monitors held a press conference on Monday to denounce the conduct of the national elections, Nigeria’s election commission declared Mr Yar’Adua had won more than 24.6m votes, or roughly 70 per cent of the poll.
Mr Obasanjo admitted earlier in a nationwide address that Saturday’s polls “could not have been said to have been perfect”, although Maurice Iwu, Nigeria ’s electoral commissioner, said the polls had been “free and fair”.
The president had cited cases of ballot stuffing, fraud, violence and logistics failures in Saturday’s polls, which are intended to lead to Nigeria’s first successful transfer of power from one elected leader to another in a history littered with military coups.
But foreign observer missions went further, saying the elections had fallen far short of international and even regional standards. The European Union electoral mission said it believed as many as 200 people had been killed during the election period. There were fresh reports of clashes across the country on Monday.
“The process cannot be considered to have been credible,” said Max van den Berg, the EU’s chief observer. Sean McCormack, a US State Department spokesman, added: “These were flawed elections and in some cases deeply flawed elections”.
Addressing journalists at his campaign headquarters on Monday night, Mr Yar’Adua rejected election observer remarks as “a sweeping conclusion and allegation which I don’t think is based on facts”.
The Domestic Election Observation Group, a collection of Nigerian monitoring organisations, called for the elections to be annulled. Mr Van den Berg said “urgent remedial action” was needed to “restore the conditions for credible and transparent elections to be held”.
Nigeria ’s national assembly is expected to reconvene today, a week ahead of schedule, amid speculation that its members may denounce the elections and call for a re-run. Only the election tribunals can cancel election results.
Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler turned opposition leader who came second with 6.6m votes, said the results were “the most blatantly rigged” ever produced in Nigeria.