Friday, April 29, 2011

U.S. Says Nigeria's Elections Were Its Best Since 1999

As Nigeria concludes its series of elections, a senior Obama administration official says the voting in legislative, presidential and local government contests was the country's most successful since it returned to multiparty democracy in 1999.

"This reverses a downward democratic trajectory and provides the country a solid foundation for strengthening its electoral procedures and democratic institutions in the years to come," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told reporters April 28.

Carson acknowledged that there had been some problems, including allegations of fraud and ballot box snatching, but said he did not believe that "any of the irregularities or technical imperfections undermines the overall outcome of this election and that the elections do reflect the will of a majority of the Nigerian people."

He praised Nigerians for showing the world "their resilience and will to have their voices heard," and said their desire to participate in democratically run elections is shared by many across the African continent.

"It also is an indication, too, that if Nigeria, with its large size and population, can in effect run and manage successful democratic elections, that it is possible for many of the other, smaller states to do as well," he said.

He commended Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission and its chairman, Attahiru Jega, as well as Nigerian security services for addressing the challenges posed by the elections. Carson said they had improved their efforts "with each progressive election."

Carson said the Obama administration deplores the violence that accompanied the elections, particularly following the April 16 presidential vote that was won by incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, but said the level of violence has been less than in previous contests.

"I think that there has been a history of violence associated with Nigerian elections in the past. But in this election, we have clearly seen a much more responsible security force, security presence, in and around the electoral sites," Carson said. He added that the United States hopes the 2011 elections will serve as "a baseline for greater improvement in both their technical procedures as well as in their security."

U.S. Department of State

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