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World News

Nigerian elections not credible: EU observers

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s elections were not credible and fell far short of basic international standards, European Union observers said on Monday as they reported many different kinds of irregularities.

Elections for president, state governors and legislators were marred by violence, poor organization, lack of transparency, significant evidence of fraud, voter disenfranchisement and bias, the observers said.

“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 Max van den Berg, chief EU observer, in a statement.

He said there were credible reports of about 200 election-related deaths and described a climate of impunity for electoral violations that had undermined the entire process.

The 150-strong EU mission called for “urgent remedial action” to restore the conditions for Nigeria to hold credible elections, though it stopped short of saying that these particular polls should be cancelled.

“Concrete steps need to be taken to establish a truly independent and capable election administration. ... Executive immunity should be removed and political will must be demonstrated ... to end the practice of hiring thugs to perpetrate electoral violence,” said van den Berg.

He said there were serious doubts about the results of the April 14 gubernatorial polls in 10 to 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states and called for the electoral body to investigate what happened in those states and possibly organize re-runs.

BALLOT STUFFING AND VOTE BUYING

“EU observers witnessed examples of ballot box stuffing, alteration of official result forms, stealing of sensitive polling materials, vote buying and underage voting,” he said.

He cited the example of Delta and Akwa Ibom states, which were each credited with more votes than Lagos even though Lagos had about double the number of registered voters as the two states put together. These were among “very magic results” that van den Berg said had come out of the elections.

His deputy, Graham Elson, said EU observers in the impoverished northern state of Jigawa had watched party agents pay for votes -- 400 naira ($3) for men, 200 naira for women.

Other observer missions, both domestic and foreign, reported similar findings.

The National Democratic Institute, a non-profit organization loosely affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party, said: “The 2007 polls represent a step backward in the conduct of elections in Nigeria” compared with the last polls, in 2003.

The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the main umbrella organization of Nigerian observers, called for new elections and urged the international community not to recognize the government that is due to emerge from the disputed polls.

“The election was a charade and did not meet the minimum standards required for democratic elections,” the TMG said.

Vittorio Agnoletto, leader of an EU parliament observer delegation, said he would be pressing for the parliament to pass a resolution criticizing the elections.

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