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International Election Observer Declares Nigeria Presidential Vote Credible

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (C), accompanied by his running mate Arc Namadi Sambo (Behind), is congratulated by Cabinet members after being declared winner of the presidential election, in Abuja, on April 18, 2011

The leader of an observer mission at last weekend’s presidential election in Nigeria says the vote was largely free and fair.

It was a significant improvement over the 2007 general elections, said Robin Carnahan of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute [NDI], and the secretary of state of the U.S. state of Missouri. Most observers described those earlier polls as flawed.

“The presidential and National Assembly elections represent a step forward from seriously flawed elections of the past,” said the NDI in a statement. It said they hold the promise of setting a new standard for integrity in Nigeria’s electoral process.

“Our observation team went to a couple of hundred [polling stations] and there were other domestic and international observers [there],” said Carnahan. “And all of us, in the main, thought the process ran relatively smoothly. Obviously, there were imperfections in it, but it seems to [have] run smoothly.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] did a good job organizing it, she added.

“There were a number of people in our delegation that observed the elections in 2007,” Carnahan said, “and they said they felt like there was a marked difference this year. That there was a determination on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission to run a real election, [and] a free and fair election. There was determination on the part of the Nigerian people to participate in an election that really reflected their voice.”

In addition to Carnahan, the NDI poll observer mission includes Joe Clark, former prime minister of Canada; Mahamane Ousmane, former president of Niger and former president of the ECOWAS Parliament; and Christopher Fomunyoh, NDI senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa.

After the election violence was reported in northern Nigeria, in the southern part of Kaduna state, especially around the town of Kaduna. A local Red Cross official told VOA that field workers are investigating.

As Nigerian soldiers patrolled streets across the predominantly Muslim north, the Red Cross said it was working to get aid to nearly 16,000 displaced people.