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EU welcomes Nigeria's 'credible election' but condemns violence

President Jonathan leads the count after Nigeria's presidential elections. While the poll was considered to have been largely free and fair, the country is politically divided because Muhammadu Buhari won the North.

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan casts his vote

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan leads the polls

The European Union has praised Nigeria's presidential election but at the same time urged restraint amid reports of violent clashes.

The election "appears to be the most credible election since Nigeria's return to democracy," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday.

However the largely free and fair poll was marred by reports of violence across the country's largely Muslim north as gangs of youths allegedly torched churches and homes, angry at President Goodluck's largely expected victory. Witnesses said at least 10 people were killed.

On Saturday, the head of the EU's 141 election observers in Nigeria, Alojz Peterle, had praised the smooth start of the presidential elections in Nigeria. These positive first impressions were confirmed the next day by the largest coalition of domestic election observers. The project "2011 Swift Count" had deployed monitors to almost 1,500 representatively selected polling stations.

In Abuja, Dafe Akpedeye, a lawyer associated with the coalition, announced the preliminary result: "The Swift Count Project ascertained across the country that citizens generally had the real possibility to exercise their right to vote." He added, that the election process went even smoother than during the parliamentary election the previous week.

But there have also been problems, for instance cases of intimidation, violence and illegal voting. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani of the civil rights organization CISLAC criticized efforts by the governing party PDP, to manipulate the elections: "In the states of Jigawa and Sokoto in the north voters were offered money to cast their ballot for the PDP."

Still, most international and domestic election observes agree that these cases didn't undermine the general credibility of the election.

Huge lead for President Jonathan in the south

A woman casts her vote at a polling place in Daura, Nigeria

A woman casts her vote at a polling place in Nigeria

The results trickling in to the capital from Nigeria's states on Sunday also show that the ruling party didn't win such a decisive victory as in the strongly manipulated elections four years ago.

According to these results, President Goodluck Jonathan was only able to reach results close to 100 percent - which are reminiscent of one-party systems - on his home turf in the Niger delta and the southeast of the country. There, his main rivals - Muslims from the North - really didn't have a large following.

A comment from a voter from the Niger delta region was indicative of the sentiment: "I voted for Goodluck Jonathan, because he will make the people happy. We need him. Without him there won't be peace, there won't be Nigeria."

Good results for the governing PDP were also reported from Nigeria's business hub Lagos and the other states in the southwest where the Youruba, the country's second-largest ethnic group, have the majority. The Action Congress (ACN), however, couldn't mobilize its voters in its stronghold in the southwest. ACN Secretary Lawan Shu'aibu criticised the strong military presence in the region. This scared off many voters, he said.

But Shu'aibu also gave another reason for his party's poor showing: "The most non voters said that there was not agreement between the ACN and the CPC." Up until two days before the elections the ACN had held talks with the Congress for Progressive Change about an alliance.

Challenger Buhari wins in the Muslim north

The CPC candidate Muhammadu Buhari was considered President Jonathan's strongest rival. But without any help and as expected, he only managed to win in the Muslim-dominated states in the North.

Electoral officials count ballot papers for the presidential election in Mashi, Nigeria

The ballot count continues

In the state of Jigawa, usually a PDP stronghold, the election commission reported a lead of 240,000 votes for Buhari over Jonathan. In neighboring Kano where the PDP had won almost all parliamentary seats a week ago, Buhari came in with 60 percent. In his home state of Katsina he garnered even more votes.

Despite the good showing for Buhari people protested sometimes violently against supposed manipulations in some northern states. Due to Jonathan's lead across the country, Buharis regional successes apparently were not enough for them. In order to be declared the winner in the first round of voting, Jonathan has to garner at least 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 of the 36 states. According to the latest results, he holds an almost insurmountable lead with more than 21 million votes and 22 states, plus the capital.

However, it looks like the political rift between the Muslim north and the rest of country has only widened with this election.

Author: Thomas Mösch (Reuters, AFP) and local DW correspondents / mik
Editor: Rob Mudge

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