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Nigerian Opposition Parties Disagree on Plans to Protest Election - 2004-04-30

Disagreements among opposition groups in Nigeria appear to be scaling down what was expected to be a major protest march next Monday, to contest last year's election results. The main opposition parties favor focusing on court actions instead.

The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, the CNPP, says its anti-government marches will go ahead Monday throughout Nigeria despite its failure to obtain police permits.

The CNPP, which is made up of about 20 opposition parties, has enlisted the support of the umbrella United Action for Democracy civil rights grouping, and says it hopes to draw two million protesters in its attempt to have the election results annulled and new polls organized.

But officials from main opposition parties say they were not properly consulted about the organization of the protest and they now fear a harsh security crackdown against their supporters.

Nigerian authorities have banned the marches, saying they could threaten democracy in Nigeria.

Political analyst Tunde Martins says it now appears likely that the marches will not take place at all.

"Most of the parties who were in the agreement before to carry out the rally have opted out," he said. "They believe that the opposition should pursue its grievances throughout the courts of law in Nigeria."

Several opposition parties, including the Movement for Democracy and Justice, say last year's election which re-elected President Olusegun Obasanjo and most state governors was marred by fraud. The party's chairman is Kalli Al-Gazali.

"The Movement for Democracy and Justice was the first political party to head for the courts to seek redress over the elections that took place last year in this country," said Kalli Al-Gazali. "The judicial system is quite clunky and a very cumbersome one but we are very, very confident. Even though the full trial has yet to commence, you can see that the preliminary issues leading to the full trial indicate very positive signals and we are quite happy so far."

International monitors said there were instances of voter intimidation and ballot stuffing in several areas, but that overall the election results seemed fair.

During its second elected term the government of President Obasanjo has lost popularity due to rising prices and allegations of corruption.