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Obasanjo Party Holds Lead in Nigerian Legislative Elections

With most of the votes counted, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's party holds a clear lead following Saturday's legislative elections. The lead is providing hope for Mr. Obasanjo, who will seek re-election in next Saturday's presidential election.

Results released since late Saturday showed President Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party appeared to retain control of both chambers of the National Assembly.

The apparent victory has bolstered Mr. Obasanjo, a former military ruler, who hopes to win re-election when millions of Nigerians return to the polls next Saturday. The presidential election will be the first organized by a civilian government in two decades.

Mr. Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending a long string of military governments in Africa's most populous country.

The Nigerian leader, a Christian southerner, will face 19 challengers, the most popular of whom is Muhammadu Buhari, who has his base of support in the mostly Muslim north.

Mr. Buhari is a former general who led a military coup in 1983, three months after elections. That year was the last time that one civilian government in Nigeria has attempted to pass power to another.

In recent months, Nigeria has experienced political and ethnic violence, most of which occurred in the oil-rich Niger River Delta and caused a nearly 40 percent drop in total oil production. Nigeria is the world's sixth leading petroleum exporter.

Some analysts had predicted the legislative poll would be disrupted by violence and fraud. But overall the elections were calm, despite some violence in the southeast of the country where observers reported at least five dead.

Observers preparing to monitor Saturday's presidential and gubernatorial polls say they hope the same pattern of minimal or no violence will hold.