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Obasanjo Wins Landslide Victory in Nigeria - 2003-04-22


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has won re-election by a landslide. Election officials say the results are not quite complete yet, but close enough to be able to declare a winner.

The official results show Mr. Obasanjo with an overwhelming 61 percent of the votes. His closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, has taken 32 percent. The final percentages may change slightly over the next few days, but election officials say they now have enough results to be able to declare Mr. Obasanjo the winner.

It has been clear for several days that he was going to win a second term. He has had a massive lead since the very first results came in Sunday. The official announcement, however, had to wait until Mr. Obasanjo passed a threshold of 25 percent support in two-thirds of Nigeria's states.

That requirement is designed to ensure that the winner has support throughout the country, not just in one region.

Mr. Buhari and his party have already said they will reject the results of the poll. They accuse the ruling party of rigging, and they call the election a huge joke.

International and domestic observers say there was serious fraud and voting irregularities in the southeast region of the country. The European Union was harshest in its criticism, saying a quarter of its observers directly witnessed incidents of fraud or attempted fraud.

But most international and domestic observer groups, including the Commonwealth group of nations, say Saturday's election was credible and peaceful in most of the country, with the exception of the southeast.

This is the first time in 20 years that a civilian government in Nigeria has held elections. The last attempt at a civilian-run poll was widely seen as flawed, and that government was overthrown a few months later in a military coup led by Mr. Buhari.

Officials from his party say they will challenge the results of this poll, but they indicate they intend to do it through legal, peaceful channels.