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Winner of Disputed Nigerian Presidential Election Denies Fraud


Nigeria's ruling party, whose candidate won the deeply flawed presidential election on Saturday, denied the ballot was rigged. The opposition candidates, however, have rejected the results of the election, which many outside observers said fell short of fairness. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abuja.

Before a champagne celebration at his campaign headquarters in the capital, President-elect Umaru Yar'Adua said the fairness of the elections cannot be judged by outsiders' measures.

He was responding to the State Department which called Saturday's election flawed.

"It is in respect to which reference point? Is it with respect to the reference point of American elections? Or is it with respect to the 1999 elections or is it in respect to the 1983 elections in Nigeria or to the 2003 elections? So when people make statements, or even organizations, or even the U.S. State Department, they should qualify such statements and we know the reference point from which they are making their statement against," said Umaru Yar'Adua. "Once you know the reference point, then it will actually make sense."

Earlier, he rejected accusations by national Nigerian observers and opposition parties that the ruling party had rigged the vote in its favor.

"That is a conclusion which I think is a sweeping conclusion and an allegation which I do not think is based on facts," he said.

International observers have said the vote fell short of regional standards and that election authorities had failed Nigerians.

Earlier Monday, the election commission awarded the ruling party candidate over 24 million votes, nearly four times more than for his nearest rival, former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari. No number for voter turnout was reported, nor any precise breakdown of the voting.

In many opposition areas, voting never got under way or when it did ballot papers were insufficient for the number of voters.

In areas where voting took place, observers and journalists were witnesses to a number of irregularities, including underage voting, ballot box stuffing and mass thumb printing of unused ballot papers by ruling party supporters.

The party for the third place candidate, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, issued a statement late Monday, saying the results will not stand, but did not give details of how this would happen.

Some have suggested public protests, others court challenges, while some say the national assembly should reconvene and call for new elections. In the northern city of Kano, protesters lit bonfires as mark of their discontent.

Outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo who was prevented from changing the constitution to seek a third elected term is to hand over power to his successor on May 29.

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