US urges Nigerian opposition not to boycott presidential election

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18/04/2007 21:22 WASHINGTON, April 18 (AFP)

US urges Nigerian opposition not to boycott presidential election

The United States called on Nigeria’s opposition parties Wednesday not to carry out a threatened boycott of presidential elections this weekend in Africa’s largest democracy.

But the State Department also called on Nigeria’s government to take "immediate and comprehensive" action to prevent alleged electoral misconduct and irregularities ahead of Saturday’s polls.

And it applauded a last-minute Nigerian Supreme Court ruling lifting a ban on a popular vice president and rival to outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo from running for the presidency.

State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said the US government had been urging officials of Obasanjo’s government "to address shortcomings" in electoral preparations.

"The United States takes seriously allegations of electoral misconduct and urges the full investigation of irregularities," she said, echoing similar concerns expressed by European governments.

Nigerian opposition parties and election observers complained of widespread fraud and violence during a first round of elections last weekend for the governors of Nigeria’s 36 federal states.

Eighteen opposition parties have since called for the regional elections to be annulled and Saturday’s presidential ballot be postponed, threatening to boycott the vote if their demands are not met.

Obasanjo refused to delay the presidential ballot and Reside said Washington did not back the boycott call.

"We urge Nigeria’s political parties to adhere to the constitutional process and to participate in these elections," she said.

"Evidence of wrongdoing should be brought to the attention of authorities and all parties should cooperate in the peaceful resolution of disputes through appropriate legal means," she said.

Reside also welcomed a Supreme Court ruling on Monday to reinstate Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo’s estranged deputy, on the ballot.

Nigeria’s election commission had barred Abubakar from running due to corruption allegations against him in a move widely seen as aimed at protecting the ruling party’s candidate and election favorite, Umaru Yar’Adua.

"We applaud the government of Nigeria’s commitment to respect the Supreme Court’s April 16 ruling that the National Electoral Commission did not have the power to disqualify candidates and to include the vice president’s name on the ballot in time for the election," she said.

Saturday’s presidential vote is expected to usher in the first civilian-to-civilian government handover in coup-prone Nigeria since the oil-rich west African nation gained independence from Britain in 1960.

Read More:http://www.africasia.com/services/news/newsitem.php?area=africa&item=070419100653.g7b6g69z.php

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