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Nigerian President Sees Reforms as Way Out of Election Crisis


Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has appointed a retired chief judge to head a panel on electoral reforms. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the review is considered crucial for the country's political future.

The April vote in Nigeria was billed as historic, because it was the first time one elected president handed over to another in Africa 's most populous country and top oil producer.

But the elections were so badly rigged independent observers called them "not credible" and "a sham."

President Yar'Adua has accepted the polls were flawed and has promised reforms to conduct a free, fair and credible vote in 2011.

The 22-man panel is to review the country's electoral laws and suggest ways of making future elections credible. The group is made up of academics, lawyers, clerics, representatives of organized labor and civil society groups.

Some opposition figures have acknowledged that the group is made up of credible persons capable of drawing up far-reaching and pragmatic changes to the electoral system.

However, Nigeria 's elections watchdog Alliance for Credible Elections says the elections credibility crisis cannot be solved solely by constitutional engineering and that the legitimacy of the last elections should be reviewed as well.

To restore credibility, Emma Ezeazu, head of Alliance for Credible Elections, says the presidential vote, which gave Yar'Adua a massive win should be canceled.

"What happened in April was not a matter of law," she said. "It was a predetermined action to undermine existing law. If the tribunals and the Supreme Court succeed in annulling quite a number of these elections, particularly the presidency, the impact of that on electoral reforms will be more fundamental than mere law reforms."

Opposition Action Congress says Mr. Yar'Adua lacks the moral authority to reform the electoral process.

Several opposition candidates are challenging the ruling party's landslide victory in court. An election tribunal in Abuja is hearing petitions filed by two leading opposition presidential candidates, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

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