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Nigeria: President Buhari wins second term

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Following a last-minute postponement, Nigeria’s general elections were eventually held on 23 February. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in the first round for a second four-year mandate with 55.6% of votes (15.2 million people). His closest rival, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar gained 41.2% of votes (11.3 million people). Abubakar rejected the results released by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), denouncing the vote as a “sham election” and setting up a legal team to challenge results. Civil society groups reported violent incidents at various polling stations; it is estimated that nearly 40 people were killed on election day. Some 73 registered candidates ran for president. The number of candidates stands in sharp contrast to the low voter turnout, which dropped to a historic low of 34.7%, the lowest since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999. Voter participation was also weak during the last presidential election in 2015 (43.6%). However, the number of registered voters (84 million) increased by 18% compared to the 2015 election. Election results usually reflect a north-south divide. However, this year both top candidates are Muslim and come from northern states. While Buhari was born to a Fulani family in Katsina, one of Nigeria’s most populous states, Abubakar is the former Governor of Adamawa State in the insecure Lake Chad area.  The campaign focused on Nigeria’s three top challenges: insecurity, the weak economy and corruption. While Buhari says he intends to take the country to the "next level," Abukar promised to "to get Nigeria working again.” Nigeria is one of the most youthful countries in the world, but its political landscape is dominated by the older generation. Both top candidates are in their 70s. A new bill was signed in 2018 to reduce the minimum age of presidential candidates to 30-years-old. Nigeria also has one of the lowest rates of female participation in parliament. Women hold only 5.3% of seats in Nigeria's state assemblies. The low voter turnout illustrates a growing sense of a disconnect between the Nigerian people and its political elite.

 

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