Nigeria's early election results hint at losses for ruling party

Preliminary results indicate losses for the People's Democratic Party, but President Goodluck Jonathan, a PDP member, could still win.

Sunday Alamba/AP
An unidentified man is marked with indelible ink after he was registered at a polling station at Oyeleye in Ibadan, Nigeria, Saturday, April 9, 2011. Nigeria slowly began the first of three crucial April elections on Saturday, as voters came out to cast ballots despite threats of violence.

On Saturday, Nigerians in around 85 percent of the country voted in legislative elections. These elections had been delayed by one week following logistical problems on April 2, and those problems account for the delays that have continued to affect some 15 percent of the country.

Yesterday results started to come in from the districts that did vote, and the emerging pattern confirms what some analysts predicted, namely losses for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). A big beneficiary so far seems to be the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which has swept much of the southwest. The same analysts who predicted losses for the PDP in the legislative elections, however, have tended to predict that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan will win reelection. The PDP may retain the presidency, then, but the party and the president will face a different political landscape.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – let’s look at the results we have.

In terms of the integrity of the voting process, Saturday’s vote was not entirely smooth – bombs exploded in several areas, and opposition leaders in Bayelsa State are crying foul over the elections there – but observers largely praised the conduct of the elections. The EU’s Chief Observer stated, “We observed an overall encouraging conduct of the elections, in a generally peaceful atmosphere.” The general consensus so far seems to be that 2011 is an improvement over 2007.

With more faith in the process, Nigerians and international observers are showing more faith in the results. It’s worth paying attention to how the results are tabulated. A Nigerian friend here in Chicago has emphasized to me how intently opposition parties, from the leaders to the rank-and-file, will be observing the physical tabulation of votes. Having groups of voters and party officials present at the polling stations and having them insist on seeing and checking the official results, my friend says, will bring greater transparency to the count. Reuters notes this phenomenon as well, but also highlights the logistical difficulties of vote counting in remote areas, where in some cases results are collected by officials on horseback.

Now to the actual results. The best sources I’ve found are 234 Next’s live updates and the Nigeria Election Coalition’s results page. I quote from the latter:

Senatorial Elections

37 results have been gotten out of 94 senatorial districts. The analysis of the received results show that ACN has 13 seats (35.1 percent), APGA 1 seat (2.7 percent), CPC 3 seats (8.1 percent), LP 1 seat (2.7 percent), PDP 19 seats (51.4 percent)

Federal House Of Representatives Elections

76 results have been gotten out of 315 constituencies. The analysis of the received results show that ACCORD has 3 seats (3.9 percent), ACN 21 seats, (27.6 percent), APGA 2 seats (2.6 percent), CPC 5 seats (6.6 percent), LP 1 seat (1.3 percent), PDP 43 seats (56.6 percent), PPN 1 seat (1.3 percent).

The Coalition also has results by district.

Commentary on the elections is coming fast and furious. Helpful analyses of the results can be found at VOA, Bloomberg, and 234 Next. One thing many of these outlets stress is not only the pattern of the results and the strong showing for the opposition, but also the high profile of some defeated PDP members, such as the speaker of the house.

Do opposition gains mean trouble for President Jonathan? The Financial Times writes, “The results are an indication of the public mood ahead of presidential polls next weekend.” That could worry Jonathan. On the other hand, praise for improvements in the electoral process is accruing to Jonathan in some segments of the Nigerian press. So the political signals are arguably mixed. In any case, presidents’ fates are not always completely tied to the performance of their parties.

My guide to the elections is here for readers who want more background.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

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