Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (C) leaves a rally w
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (C) leaves a rally w

Nigeria's ruling party has suspended its primaries, signaling that national elections scheduled for January are likely to be delayed.

The People's Democratic Party announced the move late Wednesday, after a meeting in Abuja where Nigeria's electoral commission and a majority of political parties agreed the elections should be postponed.

Earlier this week, the electoral commission called for the polls to be moved to April, so it has more time to correct flawed voter lists.

PDP candidates, including President Goodluck Jonathan, had already begun campaigning for three days of party primaries that were due to begin October 18.

For the moment, nationwide polls for parliament, president, and state offices are still set to take place on three Saturdays in January.

Nigeria has traditionally held its presidential elections in April, but earlier this year lawmakers moved the ballot forward, to allow more time after the vote for the resolution of election disputes.

Observers said Nigeria's last nationwide elections in 2007 were deeply marred by fraud, disorder and intimidation.  Legal challenges to the election of President Umaru Yar'Adua dragged on for months after his inauguration in May of that year.

The PDP is debating whether to nominate a Christian like Mr. Jonathan or a northern Muslim for president.  The party has a custom of rotating the presidency between a northern Muslim and a southern Christian every two terms.

Mr. Jonathan became president in May when Mr. Yar'Adua, a Muslim, died just three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency.

The new president is being challenged for the PDP's nomination by several politicians, all of them Muslims from the north.  The challengers include Nigeria's former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.