Elections in Nigeria have been delayed for six weeks
The postponement is due to security concerns, the election commission said
Nigeria has just postponed their national elections by six weeks, now to be held on the 28th March.
But this is no simple logistical delay – the electoral commission announced they were ready for the vote. Instead, the Nigerian military said they cannot provide security across the country on voting day, and so forced the electoral commission to postpone the vote.
The decision is extremely controversial as these elections are set to be the closest since Nigeria returned to democracy in in 1999, after decades of coups and military rule.
The military say they need to concentrate on a new offensive against the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, in north-east Nigeria. But it is likely no coincidence that the offensive comes after incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan also pushed for a postponement of the elections.
Nigeria’s opposition party have called the postponement a “setback for democracy,” as they now fear the military’s decision to force the postponement threatens not only their momentum, but the election itself.
But this is a problem not just for Nigeria. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has released an unusually strong statement saying the U.S. is “deeply disappointed.” He goes on: “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.”
U.S.-Nigeria relations are at a nadir, and at risk is America’s relationship with one of its most important allies in a region threatened by one of the world’s most violent terrorist groups, Boko Haram.
The intervention by the military is a serious blow not just to this election but also Nigeria’s young democratic process. And it couldn’t happen at a more dangerous time.
Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Nigeria’s oil dependent economy has been rocked by falling oil prices, with the worst performing stock market in Africa, record lows for the Naira currency, and depleted foreign exchange savings.
But perhaps the biggest danger is Boko Haram, which has made dramatic territorial gains over the past few months in the North East, and despite the latest offensive to counter the threat, they continue to attack major strategic towns.
The postponement brings new uncertainty and new dangers. In 2011, over 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence after Goodluck’s victory, as a Christian southerner, which was seen as illegitimate in the mostly northern, Islamic region of the country. This time, people’s hopes, tempers and disillusionment are, if anything, even higher.
Nigeria has an immense ability to absorb crises and the military’s direct threat to the electoral process has passed, not without comment, but without incident.
But there are now six weeks to the election. The fear is that this is simply the quiet before the perfect storm.
Voters take to Twitter as elections are delayed
by Thomas Page, for CNN
Upon hearing the news of the postponement, people in Africa’s most populous country took to social media to voice their opinions.
The decision was decried by many as a flawed and weak excuse, and with the date of March 28 tied to the caveat of an improvement in the security situation, some voiced concerns about the possibility of future delays.
Some believed President Johnathan was behind the delay, saying that he will now use the time to whip up extra support.
Whereas others thought the move was designed to extenuate the opposition’s funding.
Some believed the delay was a call to arms for all Nigerians to be active players in the democratic process.
Others had nothing but tears.
Whilst many fear the worst.
Read more about the Nigerian election here