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Missing ballots delay Nigeria's parliamentary vote

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-02

Nigeria has postponed eagerly awaited parliamentary elections until Monday because of delays in the delivery of voting materials, in a setback for efforts to overcome a history of flawed polls in the oil-rich West African nation.

REUTERS - Nigeria postponed parliamentary elections until Monday after voting materials failed to arrive in many areas, a major blow to hopes of a break with a history of chaotic polls in Africa's most populous nation.

"The decision we have taken is weighty indeed but it is an important step in further ensuring the credibility of the 2011 elections," Attahiru Jega, head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said in a televised address.

Voting materials failed to arrive in the capital Abuja and other regions, including Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, Plateau state in the central "Middle Belt" and Borno in the remote northeast.

"At the moment I have ballot papers for the House of Representatives but no results sheets. For the Senate I have results sheets but no ballot papers," Maria Owi, resident electoral commissioner in Akwa Ibom, told Reuters.

Jega blamed the delay on a failure to get voter materials shipped in from outside Nigeria on time, but was confident everything would be in place for the vote to go ahead on Monday.

The parliamentary polls are seen as a test of whether Nigeria can break with a history of vote fraud and violence. Presidential elections are due in a week's time and governorship votes in the 36 states a week after that.

Jega made no suggestion of any delay to those ballots.

The electoral commission has put in place tougher measures to prevent cheating and intimidation, which raised such doubts over the last elections in 2007 that foreign observers said they may not have reflected the will of the people.

Voters had gathered eagerly to register at polling stations across the country's two most populous cities -- the commercial hub Lagos in the south and Kano in the north -- but elsewhere tempers were frayed by the delays.

"This time around, for the first time, we want to get it right so that when people see Nigerians, they do not say 'that is a problem nation'," said community development worker Solomon Gbinigie in the populous Ebute Metta district of Lagos, ahead of the postponement.

Gunshots in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta also raised worries of more violence.

Successful elections in Africa's giant would be another fillip for foreign investment in Nigeria and across the fast-growing continent as well as strengthening Nigeria's international clout.

But failure could raise questions about how well-entrenched democracy is, more than a decade after the end of military rule.

Date created : 2011-04-02


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