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Nigerians Vote, Nervously Await Results


Voters in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, have gone to the polls for a presidential and legislative election in sizable numbers, and now nervously await results. Many said they did not have much faith in the fairness of the system, but felt that it was still important to vote. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from the capital Abuja.

Outside polling centers, voters stayed around and listened to radios to get the latest news from across the vast country, hoping the election would be more successful than last week's violence- and fraud-filled state election.

Voting got under way late, with new ballot papers that only included the signs of each party, and not the names or pictures of the candidates. These had to be reprinted following a Supreme Court decision this week, reinstating a previously banned candidate.

One voter says this confused many people. He blamed election authorities for not informing citizens about the change.

"That is why [they] should have had the agencies do their job," he said. "But it is too late. Some people do not know all the symbols, irrespective of the time constraint. I feel they should post out these things, the symbols of all the political parties, so people should know."

The two main candidates voted in the northern Katsina state where they are from.

Ruling party candidate Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was represented by an umbrella.

He said he was confident he would win, but that if he failed, he would accept the results.

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari was represented by corn.

The voting ballots had to be reprinted to include controversial vice president and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar. Just days before the election, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that Abubakar be added to the ballot. He was represented by a broom.

One of his supporters was happy he could tick off next to the broom symbol, and hoped the court system would continue to keep election authorities in line.

"I believe they are going to do a good job because the judiciary has been intervening, because what has been happening last Saturday, I believe there will be a difference today," he said. "[The] candidate which I like to vote for is Atiku Abubakar. The broom is to sweep out corruption and the bad governments out of this country."

One woman said she hoped her vote would count, and that the Independent National Election Commission, known as INEC, would do a good job.

"We have come out to vote," she said. "This is an election for me. I have elected [voted] now it is left for the INEC to count and of course announce the president-elect. We have done the election, for me I know it is election, it is not selection."

Election officials say they may announce final results as early as Monday. Efforts by outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo to change the constitution and seek a third term in office were denied by Nigeria's parliament.

Mr. Obasanjo is to hand over power to the winner next month, in what is being billed as the first civilian-to-civilian handover in Nigeria since independence in 1960. While voting, President Obasanjo said the ruling party had no reason to tamper with results.

A European Union observer team said it was very concerned by the late start of voting and missing ballot papers for legislative elections in many areas, and missing serial numbers on many of the ballot papers that did turn up.

In the early morning hours, police said a truck laden with explosives was rolled down a hill near election headquarters in the capital, but crashed into a poll and failed to explode.

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