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Nigerian court upholds elections

Nigerian court upholds elections

A Nigerian election tribunal upheld the president's declared victory in last year's disputed election, according to a ruling announced Tuesday.
A five-judge panel ruled that the case brought by the country's opposition was "plagued by a lack of evidence" and that the election was not significantly undermined by alleged irregularities.
International observers called the April 27 vote that brought President Umaru Yar'Adua to power deeply flawed, but analysts long predicted that a court victory for the opposition was unlikely.
While ballot stuffing was widely observed, Nigeria's election tribunal requires the plaintiff to prove not only that graft occurred, but that it was widespread enough to cause a different outcome.
Opposition challengers, Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, said they would appeal the tribunal's decision, pushing the ongoing dispute to the country's top court.
In the six-month trial, Nigeria's top two opposition politicians, former military strongman Buhari and Abubakar, introduced evidence they claimed showed ballot rigging so pervasive that the results should be dismissed.
But Yar'Adua's lawyers said the president was the rightful winner, while lawyers for the electoral commission branded the case inconsistent and speculative.
On voting day, armed thugs intimidated voters and stuffed and stole ballot boxes, observers say. Nigerians blamed Yar'Adua's party for a majority of the fraud. Despite that, analysts have said the opposition faces high legal hurdles.
Judges in a similar suit filed by Buhari in 2003 ruled that he had established fraud, but not to such a large extent as to undermine the re-election of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Last year, Obasanjo, barred by the constitution from seeking another term, had picked Yar'Adua to run on his party's ticket.
Obasanjo's hand-over of power to Yar'Adua after the vote was the first peaceful transfer of power between elected leaders since Nigeria's 1960 independence from Britain.
That was supposed to mark a turning toward democracy after years of military rule in the West African nation of 140 million people, but many Nigerians say the elections demonstrated instead how weak the rule of law is in Nigeria.
Still, the dispute over the vote has been peaceful and confined to the courts, unlike the violence that has followed a similar election dispute in Kenya.