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Nigerian Presidential, Parliamentary Polls Set for April


Cars pass a billboard, right, with a photo of Nigerian Political candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who will stand against Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for the ruling party nomination at Lagos, Nigeria, 22 Nov. 2010.

Cars pass a billboard, right, with a photo of Nigerian Political candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who will stand against Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for the ruling party nomination at Lagos, Nigeria, 22 Nov. 2010.

Nigeria will hold elections for president, parliament, and state-level races in April, under a new schedule released by the country's electoral commission.

The commission says parliamentary polls will take place April 2, followed by the presidential election a week later on April 9. Elections for state governorships and assemblies are set for April 16.

The elections were previously set for January, but the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, asked for more time to update flawed voter lists and carry out other preparations.

The complete election timetable, released Wednesday, says voter registration will run for two weeks beginning January 15. It also says party primaries can begin as early as this Friday.

At least four members of the ruling People's Democratic Party have said they will challenge President Goodluck Jonathan for the party's presidential nomination. On Monday, a group of influential northern politicians said they plan to unite behind one of those challengers, former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

PDP members are debating whether to nominate a Christian like Jonathan or a Muslim like Abubakar. Nigeria's population is split roughly evenly between the two religious groups, and the party has a custom of rotating the presidency between a northern Muslim and a southern Christian every two terms.

Jonathan became president in May when President Umaru Yar'Adua, a Muslim, died just three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency.

Nigeria's electoral commission has said it wants to make sure next year's elections are credible. Observers strongly criticized the last polls in 2007, saying they were badly marred by disorganization, intimidation, and fraud.

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