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European Union observers commend Nigerian election

Ubale Musa/im (AFP,AP,dpa)March 30, 2015

Election observers from the European Union have given Nigeria’s general elections a clean bill of health despite delays caused by the malfunctioning of the biometric card readers.

EU election observers in NIgeria
Image: DW/U. Musa

According to the head of the EU observer mission, Santiago Fisas, Nigeria's electoral commission (INEC) performed incredibly well in the wake of difficulties.

"The EU observation mission strongly encourages INEC efforts in difficult circumstances, and in spite of strong tension and criticism to maintain the highest level of impartiality, Fisas told reporters at a press briefing in Lagos.

The vote of confidence by the EU could undoubtedly serve as a morale booster to the commission which received a back lash from a cross-section of Nigerians for having introduced the biometric voting system without having tested it on a smaller electoral process.

The winner of the vote in Africa's most populous and biggest nation could be announced late Monday (30.03.2015) or on Tuesday, electoral officials said. The race between President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari was too close to call, according to analysts.

However the EU observer mission was also quick to add that several lapses were however observed by the mission which Hannah Roberts the deputy head of the observation mission, said there was an overall improvement of the electoral process.

"Generally the voting process may be characterized as disordered and prolonged. Although polling procedures were insufficiently followed, the EU observation mission saw no evidence of systematic manipulations," she said.

"The use of the biometric card readers was problematic resulting in manual voter identification being undertaken. We saw some procedural irregularities during voting and counting with procedures not always followed. For example results at polling units were not always publically displayed," Roberts said.

Other observers have also described the elections as the best ever held in the past 16 years after the return of democracy.

Ordinary Nigerians confront police in Nigeria
There were confrontations between voters and security personnel in some states due to delays of voting materialsImage: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Fears of manipulation

Despite these positive signs by the EU, the United States and Britain have expressed concerns about vote rigging. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart Philip Hammond Monday warned over possible political interference in Nigeria's vote count.

In a joint statement the two said: "We have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process -- where the votes are finally counted -- may be subject to deliberate political interference."

Nigerians at a newspaper stand
Ordinary Nigerians relied on local newspapers for updatesImage: Getty Images/Afp

INEC rejected the claims by the two diplomats saying there was no evidence of party meddling in the count.

Nigerians are eagerly waiting for the final results from what is described as the most hotlycontest in its political history. They hope that whoever wins the election will give the country a new political direction. And deal with the issue of insecurity caused by the Boko Haram in the north east of the country.