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World

Nigerians on edge as ballots are counted

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan appears to have an strong lead in Nigeria's presidential election. While observers have given an initial thumbs up to the conduct of the poll, tensions have arisen over alleged vote rigging.

Person tipping a ballot box to count votes

Ballot counting contines in some parts of Nigeria

International observers gave Nigeria's presidential election an initial thumbs up as free and fair even as initial polling revealed that Africa's most populous nation remains deeply divided between north and south.

Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan appeared to have a significant lead as polls were counted late on Sunday, with 19.4 million votes out of the 31.1 million votes that had already been counted.

Supporters of Jonathan’s main challenger, Nigeria's ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, have alleged that some of the results appear suspicious. In Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, for example, he emerged with almost 100 percent of the vote.

Voters waiting to cast ballots

Voter turnout was high for the presidential election

Amid growing tensions over the outcome, youths set fire to barricades in several cities in the north of the country - where Buhari enjoys most of his support.

Voter turnout has been particularly strong in the Muslim north, giving the presidential contender Buhari unexpected momentum. Jonathan did particularly well in his largely-Christian south.

"There's good news in this Nigerian presidential election: we're counting actual votes and people are interested in the count," said Chidi Odinkalu of the Open Society Justice Initiative NGO. "There's also quite bad news: the country is badly divided, north vs. south."

Close race

The two candidates are currently in a tight race, as results from the country's 120,000 polling stations slowly come in.

"We are walking a tightrope," said Yusuf Tuggar, from Buhari's Congress for Progressive Change and a candidate for governor in northern Bauchi State in an April 26 ballot. "People are getting excited."

A candidate must receive a simple majority and at least a quarter of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states. If neither candidate can muster that kind of support, there will be a runoff, which has not occurred since military rule ended in 1999.

Nigeria has a total of 73 million registered voters. It may take days to tally and confirm the election results.

Bomb blasts

Largely seen as Nigeria's most credible elections in decades, isolated incidents of violence took some of the shine off election day.

Skyline of Lagos

Nigeria has one of Africa's fastest growing economies

An explosion rocked a hotel in the northern city of Kaduna on Saturday, with police confirming that eight people were wounded.

"There was an explosion tonight at a hotel in the Kabala West area of the city," said police spokesman Aminu Lawal. "We don't know what caused the explosion yet or if it was a deliberate attack."

Two blasts also went off in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, one on Friday and the other on Saturday, with no causalities reported.

Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has sought to make this year's presidential elections transparent and fair after decades of polls disrupted by fraud and violence.

Author: Spencer Kimball, Richard Connor (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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