Thursday, April 21, 2011

U.S. Congratulates Nigerians on Conduct of Presidential Election

The Obama administration says the conduct of Nigeria’s April 16 presidential election was historic and shows a significant improvement over the country’s flawed 2007 presidential contest.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner congratulated the declared winner, President Goodluck Jonathan, and said the United States sees the vote as “a positive new beginning for Nigeria.”

Speaking in Washington April 19, Toner said Nigerians had been given a real opportunity to select their senior leadership, and the election “sets Nigeria on a course toward solidifying and improving its democracy through strong governance and transparent institutions.”

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, headed by Attahiru Jega, announced April 18 that Jonathan received 22.5 million votes, or approximately 57 percent of the total, which was high enough to avoid a runoff election with his nearest rival, General Muhammadu Buhari, who received 12.2 million votes.

According to press reports, news of Jonathan’s victory prompted riots in the north of the country, with charges of ballot rigging. The riots have reportedly displaced around 16,000 people and destroyed several churches.

Toner condemned the violence and called upon “all candidates, political parties and supporters to respect the results of the election” and to “channel any grievances or challenges peacefully” for redress by legal and administrative personnel in the country.

Observer teams from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) reported that the presidential vote had met their criteria to be considered fair and transparent.

ECOWAS observer mission head and former Liberian President Amos Sawyer told reporters April 17 that his 300-member team “found no major incidents or irregularities” and described the vote as “a historic step for the strengthening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor headed the AU observer team. He said the election had been fair and credible, and that any questions of fraud would be misplaced, according to press reports.

Speaking on April 17, Kufuor said Nigerians all over the country had “shown determination to exercise [their] franchise and give themselves the leader they want, and it’s refreshing.”

“Nigeria hasn’t been served too well for decades electorally, but to our pleasant surprise we found the people of Nigeria generally are the security against this,” Kufuor said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson praised the conduct of Nigeria’s National Assembly elections, which were held April 9, and wrote in an April 15 commentary that he and other U.S. officials “were heartened by what we saw” when observing the vote for the legislature.

“In sharp contrast to its elections of 2007, Nigeria was demonstrating that it can hold credible elections that allow the Nigerian people a meaningful opportunity to elect their leaders,” he wrote.

Carson said all Africans “deserve smooth, peaceful, transparent and credible elections” and that Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly contests, as well as the April 26 vote for the country’s state governorships and state assemblies, “provide an historic opportunity for Nigeria to become a model for the rest of Africa and the world, especially for those citizens demanding democracy in their countries.”

U.S. Department of State

Related stories: Foreign observers score presidential election high

Barack to Obama - You can't afford to fail

Video - Goodluck Jonathan - One year to change Nigeria

No comments:

Post a Comment