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Obasanjo Re-Elected in Nigeria - 2003-04-23

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been re-elected by a landslide. But most of the country's opposition parties are angrily rejecting the election results.

The announcement of the election results was delayed for hours while officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, met with angry representatives of 15 to 20 political parties.

In the end, many of the opposition parties refused to sign off on the results, and they stormed into the INEC media center to tell reporters they believed the poll was rigged by Mr. Obasanjo's party, the People's Democratic Party.

"Each member of the parties refused to sign the result sheets on the grounds that the results and the numbers spewed out by INEC were obviously very frivolous," says Don Etiebet, the secretary general of the largest opposition party, the All Nigeria Peoples' Party. "They did not reflect the wishes of the people, that there were no elections in many states of this country, and where there were some semblances of elections, the results were manipulated, falsified, changed, upturned to the desire of the PDP."

Mr. Etiebet was surrounded by at least 10 other opposition leaders as he spoke, including several presidential candidates. The candidate from his own party, Muhammadu Buhari, finished second in the poll with about 32 percent of the vote.

It is not clear how many parties have rejected the poll results. The chairman of the electoral commission, Abel Guobadia, later said at least two parties have accepted them.

Mr. Guobadia made the formal announcement that Mr. Obasanjo won re-election with about 62-percent of the vote. He defended the integrity of the poll against allegations of rigging. "The commission believes that the presidential election result about to be declared is the true reflection of the will of the Nigerian electorate," he said. "Contestants who are aggrieved are free to challenge the results in the electoral tribunals."

In a televised speech to the nation, Mr. Obasanjo thanked the voters for supporting him and made little reference to the controversy surrounding the poll. He urged his rivals to be, in his words, "good sportsmen." He said politicians should be magnanimous and humble in victory, and gallant and good natured in defeat.

This is the first time in 20 years that a civilian government has held elections in Nigeria. The country has spent most of its independent history under military rule.

International and domestic observer groups say there were serious irregularities and fraud in some parts of the country, especially in the southeast Niger Delta region. Most of the observers say the voting was relatively peaceful and credible in the rest of the country.