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Security Forces on High Alert in Nigeria's Poll Re-Run


Voting has concluded in Tuesday's re-run election for governor of Nigeria's southwestern Ekiti state. The vote had been rescheduled because of widespread violence. Only two wards were involved in the key election, the third attempt to elect a governor in one of the country's politically divided states.

Heavily armed soldiers and policemen were on hand to ensure Tuesday's ballot took place without major hitches. The two wards in the local government of Oye, where voting took place, saw more security men than voters. An independent election observer, Bisi Dada, told VOA the turnout had been low.

"Generally the turnout of voters can be said to be low. The number of security agents here are more than the people that are coming to vote. People came out but not as expected. In Oye, we have about 18,000 on the voters list, but from what we have seen, I do not think we can have more than 5,000 to 6,000 people coming out to vote," said Dada.

The electoral commission had to reschedule the voting after widespread violence and voter intimidation forced the cancellation of a re-run in Oye one week ago.

The candidates of the opposition Action Congress and President Umaru Yar'Adua's People's Democratic Party are embroiled in a close and hard fought governor's race that could have far-reaching implications for general elections in 2011.

In February, the court of appeal ordered a re-run in parts of Ekiti after it annulled the 2007 election of Segun Oni of the ruling People's Democratic Party as Ekiti governor.

Mr. Dada said the threat of violence is real, and people are watching closely to see how the electoral commission, INEC, handles the tabulation and announcement of final results.

"If INEC can do the right thing by tallying the results that were properly collated and properly signed by all party agents, I think there will not be any problem," he said. "So it all depends on the electoral body, what they will do this evening because by 5:00 this evening the results will start coming out. Other results that are yet to be announced will be announced. So the decision of the woman in charge will determine a lot of things that will happen today."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, holds its next presidential poll in two years, and local and foreign observers are watching the ballot in Ekiti to see whether Nigeria has improved its electoral process since the flawed 2007 national elections.

President Yar'Adua promised sweeping electoral reforms after the 2007 polls, which brought him to power, but very little progress has been achieved. Some analysts fear Nigeria is heading for a repeat of the discredited 2007 polls at the 2011 national elections.

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