Africa

Who benefits from Nigeria’s election delay?

Nigeria is to hold a delayed presidential election this Saturday, after the initial vote was rescheduled in a dramatic overnight press conference, five hours before polls were due to have opened.

The last-minute cancellation surprised the country and inconvenienced thousands of Nigerians who had travelled a long way to cast their votes. It has also cost the economy $1.5bn (£1.15bn), according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given several reasons for the delay, including attempted sabotage and logistical issues such as bad weather and problems with delivering the ballot papers.

The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and its main challenger, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have both condemned the postponement and accused each other of trying to manipulate the vote.

In a statement issued on the day of the postponement, the APC alleged that the PDP wanted to halt the momentum of its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP, whose presidential contender is Atiku Abubakar, on the other hand, said INEC had delayed the election to create “the space to perfect their rigging plans”.

According to Idayat Hassan, from Abuja-based think tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development, the week-long extension is too brief to have a significant influence on the result of the presidential vote.

She compares the latest postponement to the one in 2015, when the PDP – in government at the time – pushed the election back by six weeks, blaming the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east. That postponement, she says, ended up favouring the APC because it cast the PDP in a negative light – as a party that would pursue “power at all costs”.

She believes this year’s delay could slightly benefit the APC as it would increase voter apathy in most areas except those with historically high turnouts – “the north-west and the north-east… both strongholds of President Muhammadu Buhari”.

Other analysts say the postponement is likely to harm both parties equally, as their supporters who had travelled home to vote last week will be unable to make another journey this weekend.

Another view holds that, the delay will harm Mr Buhari’s chances, as the electoral commission’s un-readiness reflects poorly on him. The commission’s chief, Mahmood Yakubu, was appointed by Mr Buhari in 2015.

-BBC

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