Alleged political interference in Nigerian elections
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) – Election officials worked into the night Monday counting the results from Nigeria’s tight presidential vote, while the United States and Britain warned of “disturbing indications” the tally could be subject to political interference.
Early returns gave former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari seven states while incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan had five, including the Federal Capital Territory.
But results from another 25 states were still to be tallied, and 22 states had not yet delivered their results to the counting centre in Abuja, indicating a winner could not be announced before Tuesday.
As expected, Buhari swept two major northern states of Kano and Kaduna, delivering crushing defeats to Jonathan there. In Kano, the state with the second-largest number of voters, Buhari had 1.9 million votes to Jonathan’s 216 000.
Turnout was high Saturday among the nearly 60 million people eligible to vote in the high-stakes election, which took place despite a campaign of violence by the Islamic extremists of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
The count was being carried out in the presence of party representatives, national and international observers and media. The counting began two hours late, with no explanation given for the delay.
Jonathan and Buhari are the front-runners among 14 candidates for president.
Widespread rigging has occurred in many previous elections, along with violence after those votes. New biometric cards aimed at stemming fraud were used but some newly imported card readers were not working properly, and voting was extended to Sunday in 300 out of 150 000 polling stations where that problem occurred, the election commission said.
The U.S. and Britain issued a joint statement that said they would be “very concerned” by any attempts to undermine the independence of the electoral commission and distort the will of the Nigerian people.
“So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference,” said the statement, signed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Philip Hammond.
The National Human Rights Commission said 50 people were killed during the balloting, including a state legislator, a soldier and two electoral workers.