Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan signals support for vote postponement

goodlock-campaignNigerian President Goodluck Jonathan flagged his support on Tuesday for the postponement of January elections to allow more time to prepare.

In the letter to lawmakers, Jonathan said he agrees with the electoral commission “on the validity of the request” to postpone the vote.

“I shall propose an amendment of the relevant laws … which would enable (the electoral commission) to conduct general elections between now and the end of April 2011,” he said in the letter read out in the senate.

“It is my hope that the distinguished senators of the federal republic of Nigeria will consider and pass the amendment in your usual expeditious manner.”

It would mean a second round of changes to the constitution after lawmakers amended it in July to move the presidential, legislative and state elections forward to January.

The electoral chief has since asked to push the election back to April as he and his staff face the monumental task of putting together an entirely new voter list in the country of 150 million people, Africa’s most populous nation.

The commission is under pressure to produce credible elections in Nigeria, a country with a long history of vote violence and fraud.

The 2007 polls that brought former president Umaru Yar’Adua to power were judged deeply flawed by local and international observers.

Jonathan, who took over in May after Yar’Adua’s death, has announced he will run in next year’s election and has pledged a free and fair vote.

The stated reason for having initially moved the vote forward to January was to allow more time for electoral disputes to be resolved in court before the May swearing-in date.

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