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Nigerian President Urges Large Turnout for Saturday Poll

  • Julia Ritchey

A man reads a local newspaper in Lagos, April 3, 2011

A man reads a local newspaper in Lagos, April 3, 2011

Nigeria's president is urging voters to participate in parliamentary polls this Saturday, after elections were twice postponed.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says his government is committed to holding credible polls this month and called for Nigerians to cast their votes in Saturday's election, the first of three this month.

In a nationwide address, Jonathan said he shared voters' frustration and disappointment after polls were delayed twice in less than two days.

“My appeal to you this morning is to sustain that patriotic zeal that you visibly displayed last Saturday," he said. "I call on you all to come out again, en masse, on Saturday and all subsequent election days to cast your vote.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission blamed the postponement on problems with ballot distribution, but the decision caused many voters to cast doubt on the polls' credibility. Earlier this week, Jonathan defended the head of the electoral commission whom he had appointed to the post last year to clean up the electoral system.

Nigeria's last elections in 2007 were widely criticized for fraud and violence, including voter intimidation. In his speech, Jonathan promised to provide “optimal security” for the elections and encouraged Nigerians to shun violence.

“Nigeria is bigger than any one of us," he said. "No one's political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

A program officer with the National Endowment for Democracy, Oge Onubogu, has been working with civil society groups in Nigeria. She says it appears everything is in order for Saturday's election.

“It seems as if INEC, the Independent National Electoral Commission, is ready for Saturday because they went through the proper process of making sure that they sat down and had talks with all stakeholders before they came up with this new date.”

Jonathan, the former vice president, took office following the May 2010 death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who won the 2007 election.

The president is running for a full term in polls scheduled for April 16, and state polls are to be held April 26.

Approximately 70 million Nigerians are eligible to vote at 120,000 polling stations across the country.

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