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Nigeria’s Buhari wins re-election; rival pursues fraud claim

Nigeria’s Buhari wins re-election; rival pursues fraud claim
It was the second victory at the ballot box for Buhari, a one-time military ruler who in 2015 was elected to lead Africa’s most-populous nation and leading oil producer.
ABUJA, Feb 27 (Agencies): | Publish Date: 2/28/2019 12:00:00 AM IST

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari comfortably won a second term at the helm of Africa’s largest economy, election authorities said on Wednesday, but his main rival planned a fraud challenge after a vote marred by delays and violence.

The 76-year-old former military ruler took 56 percent of votes against 41 for his closest challenger, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party.

Atiku, 72, said he would go to court to contest the results due to a litany of “premeditated malpractices”.

Buhari has a daunting to-do list, from reviving an economy still struggling to recover from a 2016 recession to quelling a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

Some 327 people died in election-related violence since the campaign began in October, 67 of them during or after Saturday’s vote, according to the Situation Room monitoring group and security sources.

The violence included insurgents’ attacks to disrupt voting, and clashes between gangs and security forces around poll centres.

Buhari, of the All Progressive Congress party, said he would reform the economy, combat graft and improve security, and urged supporters not to gloat or “humiliate” the opposition.

“We will continue to engage all parties. Our government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open,” he said while receiving his election certificate.

Atiku rejected the outcome, saying one obvious red flag was that states in the northeast ravaged by insurgents’ attacks generated much higher voter turnouts than peaceful states.

“It is clear that there were manifest and premeditated malpractices in many states which negate the results announced,” he said.

That presaged a legal battle in a terrain where Nigeria’s most senior judge was controversially suspended by Buhari last month after allegations he breached asset declaration rules.

The move brought criticism that the government was meddling with judicial independence.

The opposition’s fraud accusations have heightened tensions in the region’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer where six decades of independence have seen long periods of military rule, coups and secessionist wars.

But the controversy could also just peter out, as happened recently after a presidential vote in Democratic Republic of Congo. “A legal challenge is very unlikely to overturn the official result,” said John Ashbourne, economist at Capital Economics in London, of the Nigerian election.

The president garnered 15.2 million votes to Atiku’s 11.3 million, on turnout of just 35.6 percent, the electoral commission said.

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