Nigerian opposition politicians are discussing the formation of a broad-based opposition party that can wrest power from the ruling People's Democratic Party in elections scheduled for 2011.  The PDP has dominated the Nigerian political landscape since the return to civil democracy in 1999, but has also been blamed for election-related violence, intimidation and rigging.

Representatives of 20 opposition parties say only a grand coalition of the opposition can wrest power from the ruling People's Democratic Party in 2011. The opposition leaders, who met this week in Abuja, said they agreed in principle on the formation of what they called a mega party to defeat the ruling party. Balarabe Musa, a former state governor, speaks for the group.

"The only peaceful alternative is for the opposition, or rather patriotic Nigerians to come together in one form or the other, and to make sure that the one-party dictatorship does not survive after the 2011 elections," he said. "We are considering three options; a mega political party or an alliance of political parties, or a combination of the two."

In 2007, President Umaru Yar'Adua was elected in a poll that was described by international and local observers as not credible. Mr. Yar'Adua has proposed reforms to ensure improvements in future elections, but progress has been slow.

Musa says the opposition is skeptical about the ruling party's commitment to free and credible elections in Nigeria.

"They have made it quite clear they will remain in power for the next 60 years," he noted. "Secondly, they have now got all the institutions of the state behind them to remain as a one-party dictatorship."

The ruling People's Democratic Party and the main opposition Action Congress party have been trading accusations over alleged plots to destabilize the government and assassinate a key opposition leader.

The ruling party has rejected opposition claims that it plans to rig the 2011 elections. It also dismissed the planned opposition coalition as weak and ineffective.