Nigeria ruling party wins key state election re-run

Wed May 6, 2009 10:13am GMT
 

By Thomas Olowolefa

ADO-EKITI, Nigeria May 6 (Reuters) - Nigeria's ruling party has narrowly won a re-run governorship race in the southwestern state of Ekiti seen as a test of whether the country's electoral process has improved since flawed 2007 national polls.

President Umaru Yar'Adua promised to institute electoral reforms after federal and state polls just over two years ago which were so marred by ballot-stuffing and voter irregularities that local and foreign observers said they were not credible.

Ekiti residents voted last month in a re-run of their 2007 gubernatorial poll, which was annulled by an appeals court last February due to electoral law violations, but violence in some areas forced the results to be delayed.

"Chief Segun Oni of the People's Democratic Party won the re-run election, having polled 111,140 votes," electoral commissioner Ayoka Adebayo told reporters late on Tuesday.

Oni, who is due to be sworn in on Wednesday, beat the opposition Action Congress candidate by just over 4,000 votes, according to the announcement.

Opposition supporters in some areas burned tyres in protest after the result was announced but were quickly dispersed by a heavy police and military presence. The state capital, Ado-Ekiti, was calm on Wednesday.

The electoral commission last week postponed publication of the results because of violence in two voting wards and in the town of Oye, home to around 18,000 voters.

Southwestern Nigeria, in particular the commercial capital Lagos, has traditionally been an opposition stronghold and the re-run gubernatorial poll in Ekiti is being closely watched as a test of the PDP's strength ahead of national polls in 2011.

Nigeria's cabinet has backed several electoral reforms including independent funding for the Independent National Electoral Commission, breaking the agency up so it can better focus on electoral conduct, and prosecution of election riggers.

Critics say the reforms are not enough. They must still be passed by parliament and some analysts say time is running out if the country is to avoid a repeat of the chaotic 2007 polls. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Jon Hemming)

 
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