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Nigeria state elections marred by violence, fraud

[JURIST] Elections of governors and state officials in Nigeria [JURIST news report] Saturday were marred by violence and accusations of fraud in what has been called an "experiment" as the nation prepares for next week's presidential election [BBC report]. Newspapers reported as many as 52 casualties in election-related violence, with the official count at 21 deaths and 218 arrests. Saturday's elections are seen as testing the ability of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) [BBC backgrounder] to oversee the election process prior to the April 21 presidential vote, the nation's first transfer of power between popularly elected officials. The PDP is currently in power in 28 of Nigeria's 36 states. Besides violence at the polls, there were nationwide reports of police intimidation and ballot stuffing. A spokesperson from the opposition Action Congress [INEC profile] group reported "massive irregularities and fraud" and said soldiers and police were employed to "cart away ballot boxes and rig in favour of the PDP." State officials, including Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission (INEC) [official website] Chairman Maurice Iwu, said the problems were relatively isolated and called the vote "a very good first effort." Partial results [AP report] released Sunday evening showed 10 of 12 states counted going to the PDP, with a 90% voter turnout.

In February officials announced the creation of an election tribunal [JURIST report] to preside over disputes and complaints arising from the nation's general elections. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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