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Nigerian tribunal upholds presidential election result

Latest update : 2008-02-26

A Nigerian court rejected challenges to last year's election of President Umaru Yar' Adua despite reports of massive vote rigging by international observers.

ABUJA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - A Nigerian tribunal upheld the
2007 election of President Umaru Yar'Adua on Tuesday, rejecting
challenges from rivals who wanted the vote annulled because of
massive rigging.

The tribunal in Africa's most populous nation ruled that
opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, Yar'Adua's main opponent,
had failed to prove that violations of the electoral law were
substantial enough to invalidate the overall result.

The five-judge tribunal also rejected a challenge brought by
former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who came third in the
election that local and international observers said was marred
by massive fraud.

"Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan remain the president
and vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria," the
ruling said.

Had the vote been annulled, it could have risked
destabilising the major oil exporter, which emerged just nine
years ago from decades of army rule and has drawn increasing
foreign investor interest.

Yar'Adua's victory was disputed from the moment it was
announced and doubts over whether he would finish his four-year
term have delayed policy-making and investment decisions.

Some commentators saw the simple fact that the challenge
went through the courts as a positive development on a continent
where disputed elections can lead to violence, as Kenya's Dec.
27 vote has done.

"The ultimate winners are our democracy and indeed our
judicial system, along with millions of Nigerians let down by
the kleptomaniacs who shot or rigged their way into positions of
leadership," wrote Muhammad Al-Ghazali in Daily Trust newspaper.

The legal battle in Nigeria is still likely to drag on
because the losing parties can appeal to the Supreme Court.

Official results from the election on April 21 last year
gave Yar'Adua 24.6 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for
Buhari and 2.6 million for Abubakar.

A few months ago, most Nigerians would have considered it
unthinkable for a court to overturn a presidential election, but
multiple annulments of appointments by lower level appointments
have changed that perception.

Date created : 2008-02-26