Nigeria Ruling Party Loses More Ground In Poll

Results declared for half the seats in the national assembly suggested the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) was on course for a majority, but not of the size which has allowed it such dominance since army rule ended in 1999.

Despite chaotic organisation and violence in the run-up to the poll, it was hailed as one of the fairest ever in the country of 150 million, where President Goodluck Jonathan is standing in a more important presidential ballot this Saturday.

“We observed an overall encouraging conduct of the elections, in a generally peaceful atmosphere,” the European Union observation mission said in a statement. EU observers said the last nationwide elections, in 2007, were not credible.

Jonathan’s PDP party lost out to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the southwest and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in parts of the north — the vote highlighting Nigeria’s regional divisions.

The ruling party nevertheless made gains in some areas and held many traditional strongholds.

Of seats declared for the House of Representatives, the ruling party had just over half compared to 77 percent in the outgoing parliament.

Many of the areas still to declare results have previously been dominated by the PDP. While the CPC could still pick up seats in northern states yet to be declared, most of the results from the ACN’s powerbase had been released.

The first of three polls to be held this month was seen as a test of whether Nigeria could ever hold a credible vote.

The presidential election is expected to bring a much higher turnout to the country’s 120,000 polling units.

Jonathan is widely expected to win. Although the parliamentary vote highlighted the growing strength of the opposition in a fairer vote than has been held in the past, the ruling party was still very much on top.

An election for the powerful governors of 36 states will be held on April 26.

Isolated reports of ballot box snatching, assaults on party officials and a poorly handled electoral process in some areas have prompted a handful of losing candidates to contest results from the parliamentary poll.

But observers said these did not mar the overall vote and there were nowhere near as many complaints as in the past.

“We noted several logistical deficiencies and procedural inconsistencies across the country. We do not believe that these called into question the overall credibility of the process,” said Festus Mogae, chairman of the Commonwealth observer group. Reuters