Nigeria pushes back polls after logistics chaos

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria postponed parliamentary and presidential elections by one week yesterday after failing to get logistics prepared in time, a major embarrassment for a nation hoping to break with a history of chaotic polls.

Africa’s most populous country will now hold parliamentary elections on April 9, presidential elections on April 16 and governorship elections in its 36 states on April 26, electoral commission head Attahiru Jega said.

Nigeria was forced to abort parliamentary elections on Saturday after voting materials failed to arrive on time in large parts of the country.

It had planned to try again today, but political parties complained the timeframe was too tight.

“Following consultations we had with stakeholders, the commission has found out that the overwhelming sentiment is to further reschedule the elections,” Jega said.

“All of the political parties have fully endorsed these recommendations,” he told reporters.

Elections since military rule ended 12 years ago have all been marred by ballot-stuffing and intimidation. The 2011 elections had been eagerly anticipated as a chance to break that cycle.

“Such repeated and last minute changes are regrettable and do not reflect positively on the state of preparedness of INEC,” said Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana and head of the Commonwealth observation mission.

“What is important, however, is that the elections take place as now rescheduled,” he said.

Despite Jega’s brave face, the logistical chaos is a huge embarrassment both for him and for President Goodluck Jonathan, who made organising a credible election one of his key promises when he took office last year after his predecessor died.

Jega was given an 88 billion naira ($570 million) budget last August just for overhauling voter lists and buying additional ballot boxes, leading some Nigerians to question whether they were getting value for money.

Conspiracy theories were already abundant after the first postponement, ranging from a concerted bid to discredit the electoral commission by those scared of a free poll, to an attempt by the ruling party to cling on to power.

News website Sahara Reporters, run by Nigerians in the United States, said the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had been losing heavily in those areas where voting did begin on Saturday.

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