News / Africa

Nigeria Opposition Makes Gains in Legislative Vote Tally

Supporters of the Accord Party celebrate after they discovered they were reportedly leading after the counting of an election ballot papers at Oyeleye ward in Ibadan, Nigeria, April 9, 2011
Supporters of the Accord Party celebrate after they discovered they were reportedly leading after the counting of an election ballot papers at Oyeleye ward in Ibadan, Nigeria, April 9, 2011
Julia Ritchey

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's ruling party is leading in the vote tally from the April 9 parliamentary elections, but opposition parties have made gains. Poll observers say despite violence at some polling stations, the vote was mostly fair.

The results released so far from Nigeria's parliamentary polls show the ruling People's Democratic Party with a decisive yet shrunken majority in the National Assembly.

The Independent National Electoral Committee on Monday said the PDP won a little more than 50 of the 103 seats in the House, and 36 of 56 seats in the Senate.

The results were something of a blow to the PDP, which lost several high-profile races. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria made gains in the southwest, and the Congress for Progressive Change party picked up seats in the north.

Several Senate seats are still up for grabs in the 15 percent of the country which has yet to vote due to ballot distribution problems. Logistical problems forced the electoral committee to delay polls twice last week before deciding to proceed in part.

A few violent incidents cast a shadow over the April 9 voting, including a bombing at a polling station just outside of Abuja that killed 12 on the eve of the election, and another bomb attack in the northeast that killed one person and injured several others.

Poll observers said despite imperfections, the elections were mostly fair with fewer reports of vote rigging and violence than in the past.

Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine is in Nigeria as part of a monitoring delegation for the National Democratic Institute - a non-partisan U.S. organization that works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide. He says overall, the process was an improvement.

“Understanding that the context of violence in the country, which is tragic, and some imperfections and irregularities that we saw across the country, on balance, we think it was a very effective democratic process of choice,” he said.

Nigeria's parliamentary poll was a prelude to the presidential election this coming Saturday and state elections to be held April 26.

An opinion survey released last week showed President Goodluck Jonathan in a double-digit lead over his closest competitors - though if Monday's results are any indication, the margin of victory could be smaller. The PDP has won every presidential race since the end of military rule in 1999.

Corzine said he thinks the elections for president and governors could present more challenges because they will attract more voters.

Nigeria's government and Independent National Electoral Committee have ramped up security and installed high-tech voting procedures to try to cut down on ballot tampering.

The elections this month are seen as a test for Africa's most populous nation to see whether it can hold credible polls. Nigeria's last polls in 2007 were widely criticized for violence and fraud.

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