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Nigerians Vote Saturday In First of Three Upcoming National Elections

Published on Saturday 2nd April 2011

Polling stations are open in Nigeria Saturday, where voters are choosing a new parliament in the first of three weeks of national elections.Observers are watching to see if election officials can prevent the violence and fraud that badly marred the last polls in 2007.  Election chairman Attahiru Jega said Friday that the April elections give Nigeria the chance to "get it right." Nigeria's electoral commission has pledged to make this year's polls free and fair, and has introduced new voting procedures designed to prevent cheating and maintain order.Nigeria has seen sporadic violence in the run-up to the polls, especially in the north of the country. It is not clear whether all the violence is politically motivated.Africa's most populous country shut its land borders and increased security ahead of Saturday's vote.  The Nigerian government ordered the borders remain closed until Sunday morning.  Authorities also will restrict the movement of vehicles while voters cast ballots.The parliamentary election is followed by the presidential vote on April 9. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a field of challengers led by former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.A third round of polls for state governor posts follows on April 16.Nigeria's ruling People's Democratic Party is hoping to retain its hold on the presidency and parliament.Mr. Jonathan is seeking his first full term after rising to power last year following the death of predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua.  His run was opposed by some PDP members who accuse him of breaking an informal rule to rotate the presidential nomination between Muslims from the north and Christians from the south. Mr. Jonathan is a Christian, while Mr. Yar'Adua was a Muslim. President Yar'Adua died just three years into what was expected to be a two-term, eight-year presidency.Nigeria's population of 140 million - the largest in Africa - is split roughly evenly between Muslims and Christians.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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