The Nigerian presidential election has been won by Umaru Yar’Adua, the candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, it was declared this afternoon.
Maurice Iwu, the chairman of Nigeria’s Electoral Commission, said that the 55-year old Muslim governor of northern Katsina state had won a landslide victory by a margin of nearly four to one over his nearest rival.
European Union monitors earlier warned that the results of the Nigerian elections lacked credibility, claiming that the poll had fallen far short of international standards.
Ballot-stuffing and a shortage of millions of voting papers had undermined the results, said Max van den Berg, the chief EU observer. In addition at least 200 people, including some election candidates, had died in outbreaks of violence.
“These elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible,” said Mr van den Berg, in a statement today.
The EU statement recommends urgent action, but does not go as far as recommending that the poll should be cancelled.
The International Republican Institute, another election monitor, agreed that the poll fell below acceptable standards, while the Transition Monitoring Group, an organisation of Nigerian observers, said that the entire election should be annulled and rerun.
Harsh criticisms of the elections prompted a swift rebuttal from President Olesegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s outgoing leader.
He accused opposition leaders of fomenting the violence and employing thugs to achieve victory, but said that Nigerians had kept faith with democracy.
“Our elections could not have been said to be perfect,” conceded Mr Obasanjo, in a televised address.
He claimed however that the results were in line with opinion polls taken before this weekend’s ballot, and warned against any attempt to overturn the results. “Nothing should be done to make our people lose faith in the electoral process and its democratic outcome.”
Mr Obasanjo was barred by Nigeria’s constitution from standing himself for a third term as president, after moves to alter the constitution came to nothing.
It was the first time since Nigeria won independence from Britain in 1960 that power was due to be peacefully transferred from one elected leader to another in a democratic ballot.
Yar’Adua won with 24.6 million votes, far ahead of his two main rivals, the Electoral Commission said. Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s onetime military ruler, came in second place with 6.6 million votes, Vice President Atiku Abubakar won 2.6 million, and the remaining 23 candidates won less than 300,000 votes.
In Buhari’s home town of Dauro, the polling centre was burned down and six children shot in the protests, after electoral commissioners arrived hours late with fewer than half the ballot papers they were supposed to bring. The incident was mirrored in other opposition strongholds throughout the country.
Results in one area of Delta state were cancelled because more votes were cast than there were registered voters – despite the fact that almost no ballot papers were available on polling day. In other areas, polling stations were unable to open until half an hour before they were due to close because of a shortage of voting slips.
There were reports of an army truck found stuffed with ballot papers marked in favour of the ruling PDP, two days before the elections were due to be run.
Nigeria is a major oil producer. World oil prices rose to $67 a barrel today because of fears of further turmoil.
The White House said that it was concerned by reports of fighting and poll irregularities, and urged all sides to refrain from violence.
“We are deeply troubled by what we saw over the weekend,” said Gordon Johndroe, the national security spokesman.
“We had urged free and fair elections, and I’m not sure that is exactly what the people of Nigeria got. We look forward to getting more information as the observers report.”