PRELIMINARY ELECTION RESULTS show incumbent Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan prevailing in several of his party’s strongholds, as officials awaited figures from the north in order to determine whether he would meet the threshold to win outright re-election in the first round of polling.
Jonathan – who became president after his predecessor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office last year following a lengthy illness – is the presumed frontrunner, with his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) having dominated Nigerian politics since the country embraced democracy 12 years ago.
But several other candidates, who draw much of their support from Muslims in the country’s north, threaten to win enough votes to stop Jonathan from claiming an outright victory – thereby forcing a run-off election for the first time.
To win, Jonathan must receive a minimum level of support from across the country, under a complicated formula somewhat similar to the American electoral college system. He cannot win the presidency outright unless he carries at least a quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the country’s 36 states and the capital, Abuja.
Election officials have already awarded Jonathan victory in Abuja and the states of Enugu and Ogun, but the electoral college votes from those states constitute only a fraction of the total.
Neither of those states are in the north where Jonathan needs to draw at least marginal support to avoid a second round.
Authorities in northern Nigeria, meanwhile, said eight people had been wounded after a bomb exploded at a poor hotel hours after voters cast their ballots.
A police spokesman said that two suspects were in custody after the explosion in the town of Kaduna, the home of Jonathan’s vice-president Namadi Sambo.
Kaduna was once a PDP stronghold, but preliminary results from yesterday’s poll showed voters siding with an opposition candidate — Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler from the north who previously led Nigeria shortly after a 1983 coup.
Nigeria has a long history of violent and rigged polls, and legislative elections earlier this month left a hotel ablaze, a politician dead and a polling station and a vote-counting centre bombed.
International observers said yesterday’s poll went smoothly despite some reports of irregularities.