Nigeria Delays Elections

Following several weeks of discussions on the subject, the Nigerian parliament has delayed the 2011 presidential elections from January to April. This move, recommended by the Independent National Electoral Commission, is meant to give officials more time for logistical preparation. It will also lengthen the campaign season. Some analysts see that as a net negative for President Goodluck Jonathan; I am not so sure.

More details on the delay:

Both houses of parliament approved constitutional changes late on Wednesday allowing elections between 30 and 150 days ahead of the May 29 date for swearing in the new administration, accommodating INEC’s proposal that the elections take place in April.

The constitutional amendment must be ratified by two thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states before being given final approval by parliament, a process expected to take at least a week.

All Africa has more.

VOA’s analysis underscores the competition Jonathan faces and the religious division between him and his challengers.

President Goodluck Jonathan is facing at least four challengers for the ruling party’s presidential nomination.

People’s Democratic Party members are debating whether to nominate a Christian like Mr. Jonathan or a Muslim.  The party has a custom of rotating the presidency between a northern Muslim and a southern Christian every two terms.

Mr. Jonathan’s predecessor Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim, died in May, just three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency.

All four declared challengers to Mr. Jonathan are Muslims.  The challengers include Nigeria’s former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.

Jonathan is no doubt under pressure. According to Nigerian blogger Loomnie, the PDP has not set a date for choosing a nominee. With opponents inside and outside of his party, Jonathan will have to maneuver skillfully to come out on top. But I believe he can do it, in large part because of the advantages of incumbency. More time could give his opponents a chance to build support, raise their profiles, and launch attacks on Jonathan, but it could also help the president – he patiently waited to declare his candidacy, after all, showing that he is comfortable letting uncertainty build and taking time to choose his moment. The PDP primary will be a decisive moment, but if he wins that then I think he will have the upper hand in the general election.

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