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Obasanjo Headed for Victory in Nigerian Elections


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo appears set to win a crushing victory in the country's presidential election. But the main opposition party is rejecting the results of the poll. Some observer groups say serious irregularities in some regions have undermined the credibility of the election.

The main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, has rejected the results of the poll. Officials from his party, the All Nigeria People's Party, or ANPP, say they are still determining what action to take.

A senior ANPP official, Muhammadu Murtala, said the election was rigged.

As an example he notes that President Obasanjo took 100 percent of the vote in some districts, with no votes for the opposition, and no spoiled ballots. Mr. Murtala says his party believes those results are fraudulent.

"It is impossible, things like that. There are a lot of discrepancies coming here and there," he said. "So when you put them together, obviously you are going to report to Voice of America that what they have done in Nigeria, it is wrong. So we are not going to take it."

Mr. Murtala says the ANPP is still compiling the reports from its poll monitors and will compare them with the official results before deciding what course of action to take. But he said the party will follow the legal procedure, and will not resort to violence.

In the meantime, he says the ANPP is urging its supporters to remain calm.

Two U.S.-based observer groups, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, say the elections in most of the country were peaceful and well-run. But they also say there was deliberate fraud and ballot-box-stuffing in some regions. Both groups singled out the Niger Delta region in the southeast as particularly troubled.

One NDI observer said, "what happened in Rivers State, because of large scale irregularities, was hardly an election." Mr. Obasanjo has taken more than 90 percent of the vote in Rivers State, and the electoral commission is reporting a high turnout. But observers and journalists in the state said hardly anyone went to the polls, and many polling stations did not even open because of electoral violence.

A domestic monitoring organization, the Transition Monitoring Group, came to a similar conclusion. The group said substantial flaws in some critical stages tend to undermine the credibility of the poll.

The head of the Nigerian electoral commission, Abel Guobadia, denies the elections were rigged. He does not, however, deny the reported irregularities, but he said they are not serious enough to invalidate the results of the entire election. And he said none of the observer missions so far have recommended that.

"I don't think they have come to the conclusion that because of these irregularities the votes cast are necessarily not valid," he said. "The system makes adequate provision for those who do not feel happy to seek redress and get things corrected in their own way. We still believe this is the right path."

The final results of the presidential poll are expected no later than Wednesday.

The verdicts of the bigger international observer groups still have not been released. The European Union and the Commonwealth group of nations sent hundreds of observers to monitor the poll. They probably will not issue any formal statements until after the final results have been announced.

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