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Nigeria Parties Back Poll Delays

Unidentified man reads newspaper with headline 'National Shame' after election was postponed Saturday by Election Commission, Lagos, Nigeria, April 3, 2011

Nigeria's main political parties are backing a decision by election officials to postpone nationwide polls for a week.

Elections for parliament were abruptly stopped Saturday when voting materials failed to reach many polling sites. The new schedule calls for parliamentary polls on April 9, followed by the presidential vote on April 16 and state elections 10 days later.

President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling People's Democratic Party [PDP] have welcomed the postponement, while rejecting allegations that they sabotaged the polls to force a delay.

The PDP dismissed the accusations as the "rantings of those who see failure and envisage defeat at the polls."

The party of Jonathan's main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, said the postponement was the best option to allow for fair elections.

A spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, for the Congress for Progressive Change party expressed hope the electoral commission would overcome its problems and prevent sabotage.

The Commonwealth Observer Group, which plans to monitor the polls, called the delay "regrettable" in a statement Monday. But, group chairman Festus Mogae said the most important thing is that the polls are "free, fair and credible."

The parliamentary vote was initially moved to Monday before the new schedule was released.

The postponement has sparked anger and disappointment across Nigeria, and the election commission has come under sharp criticism.

Commission chairman Attahiru Jega has promised free and fair polls. Nigeria's last elections in 2007 were marked by widespread disorder, violence, and fraud.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.