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Vote-Counting Continues in Nigeria After Saturday's Elections - 2003-04-13

Vote-counting continues in Nigeria, where millions turned out to cast ballots Saturday in the country's first legislative elections since the transition to civilian rule four years ago.

Observers said the poll on Saturday went far smoother than many Nigerians had predicted.

Turnout was high in most of the country, despite heavy rains and a long list of logistical problems, including the late delivery of ballot boxes to many of the 150,000 polling stations.

Opponents of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had called for the postponement of the poll, citing concerns about possible violence. The run-up to the elections was marred by ethnic clashes, primarily in the southern oil-producing Niger River Delta.

Voting had to be postponed to Sunday in the oil-producing city of Warri, where ballot boxes arrived at polling stations late in the day.

Officials of the Roman Catholic Church dispatched thousands of observers to polling stations across the country. They reported at least six people were killed in political violence Saturday, mostly in southeastern Enugu state.

The election is to decide on who will fill 360 seats in the House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate. Both chambers are currently controlled by the party of President Obasanjo, who is seeking a second term in next Saturday's presidential elections.

The poll was the first to be organized by a civilian government since Nigeria made the transition from military rule in 1999.

Many see these elections as a test of the strength of the country's young democracy.