ABUJA, April 2 – Nigeria’s parliamentary elections were postponed in the capital Abuja and several other parts of Africa’s most populous nation on Saturday because voting materials failed to reach polling stations.
The delays were a heavy blow to hopes that a better organised vote, the first in a series this month, would help the country of 150 million break with a record of chaotic elections marred by fraud and violence.
The postponement in Abuja was announced hours after voters had begun to gather at polling stations for registration.
Voting materials also failed to arrive in other regions, including Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, Plateau state in the central “Middle Belt” and Borno in the remote northeast.
“At the moment I have ballot papers for the House of Representatives but no results sheets. For the Senate I have results sheets but no ballot papers,” Maria Owi, resident electoral commissioner in Akwa Ibom, told Reuters.
“I do not think I can conduct a credible election, so it should be postponed to a later date.”
The parliamentary polls are seen as a test of whether Africa’s most populous nation can break with a history of vote fraud and violence. Presidential elections are due in a week’s time and governorship votes in the 36 states a week after that.
The electoral commission has put in place tougher measures to prevent cheating and intimidation, which raised such doubts over the last elections in 2007 that foreign observers said they may not have reflected the will of the people.
Voters gathered eagerly to register at polling stations across the country’s two most populous cities — the commercial hub Lagos in the south and Kano in the north — but elsewhere tempers were frayed by the delays.
“This time around, for the first time, we want to get it right so that when people see Nigerians, they do not say ‘that is a problem nation’,” said community development worker Solomon Gbinigie in the populous Ebute Metta district of Lagos.
Gunshots in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta also raised worries of more violence.
Successful elections in Africa’s giant would be another fillip for foreign investment in Nigeria and across the fast-growing continent as well as strengthening Nigeria’s international clout.
But failure could raise questions about how well-entrenched democracy is, more than a decade after the end of military rule.
source Reuters read more