Nigerian voters try again after technical glitches

Nigerians hit by failures in new election technology return to the polls on Sunday, to allow them to cast their ballots in the country’s close-run presidential election.

President Goodluck Jonathan — who is running against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari — and at least three governors from his ruling party were among those whose biometric details could not be checked by the devices, which are designed to combat electoral fraud.

Instead, they had to be processed by hand. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called it a “huge national embarrassment” and a “vindication” of their position against the technology.

“There should have been a test-run for a smaller election before deploying it for an election of this magnitude,” said Jonathan’s presidential campaign spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode.

Buhari, Jonathan’s main opponent whose All Progressives Congress (APC) party had backed the voter identity card readers, however, suggested the row was overblown.

“All this, I think, negative thought about Nigeria election shouldn’t hold because of (a) problem in even a maximum of five states,” he said.

A 24-hour extension to the election was “in order”, he added after voting in his home state of Katsina, in the Muslim-majority north.

– Boko Haram –

The confusion over the malfunctioning technology added to problems in voting in Africa’s most populous nation which included election officials arriving late — or sometimes not at all.

Boko Haram, which has dominated the campaign trail, also loomed large, apparently holding good to their pledge to disrupt what it sees as the “un-Islamic” elections by launching a series of attacks.

On Friday, 23 people were beheaded and homes set on fire in Buratai, some 200 kilometres (125 kilometres) from the Borno state capital, although it was not clear if it was poll-related.

On Saturday, at least seven people were killed in a string of shootings that witnesses blamed on the Islamists in the northeastern state of Gombe. Three of the attacks were at polling stations.

An election official in the Nafada district, who asked not to be identified, said the gunmen were heard shouting: “Didn’t we warn you about staying away from the election?”

The Islamists have repeatedly targeted Nafada but the APC on Saturday blamed its political opponents.

– Enforced delay –

Sunday will again see tight security in place for the vote from 0700 GMT, given Nigeria’s past history of poll-related violence that in 2011 saw some 1,000 people killed after the result was announced.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had said the overall result would be announced within 48 hours of polls closing.

But the enforced delay, which will see those affected by the technical glitches accredited by hand, will likely stretch an already loose deadline.

INEC chairman Attahiru Jega told NTA state television in an interview on Saturday night that what happened to Jonathan was “regrettable and a national embarrassment”.

But he added that “in general, we believe that in spite of the challenges things have gone very well” and that turn-out was “quite large”.

The body’s spokesman Kayode Idowu said voting would take place on Sunday in “just about 300 polling units out of about 150,000” across the country.

“These include about 109 places where cards were not read. Barely 100 places with biometrics issue and others had issue with batteries,” he told reporters in the capital, Abuja.

“There are some states without any such incident at all.”

– Close-run –

The problems come with close interest in Nigeria’s presidential election, which is the mostly keenly fought in the country’s history.

Jonathan have portrayed the 72-year-old Buhari as yesterday’s man, warning that his reputation as a bulwark against graft and “indiscipline” is a cover for dictatorship.

Both men have been seen as neck-in-neck in rare pre-election polling with the real possibility that the PDP could be defeated for the first time since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

Observers have, however, seen the six-week delay in voting from February 14 on security grounds as a ploy for Jonathan to claw back lost ground using the greater power of incumbency.

Voting is also taking place for the country’s parliament.

Photo Credits : AFP

Snap polls under way in Lesotho six months after coup bid

A snap election began in Lesotho on Saturday, two years earlier than scheduled and six months after an attempted coup plunged the small southern African nation into crisis.

The country has been deadlocked since Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament in June last year to avoid a motion that would have seen him ousted after his fragile coalition government fell apart.

On August 30, soldiers — reputedly loyal to the opposition — attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.

Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt fueled by the opposition and fled to neighbouring South Africa, though both the military and opposition denied this.

There was little sign of the election in the city centre of Maseru as polling kicked off, since campaign rules called for all political advertising to be removed 24 hours ahead of the vote.

On Thursday afternoon, a crowd in the yellow T-shirts of Thabane’s All Basotho Congress marched through the town with their candidate, singing and chanting as armed regional police stood by.

In schools and fields just outside Maseru, lines began forming outside polling stations before sunrise Saturday.

In Thabane’s home district of Abia, just outside the capital, about 100 people were queued outside two green army tents in a field, ready to cast their votes when the polls opened just after 0500 GMT, police security standing nearby.

“I’m so glad today is here,” said Peter Matete, 56. “I just want to see my country calm and peaceful.”

A police explosives unit came by with sniffer dogs, checking the tented polling stations: Thabane was expected to vote at the same station later in the morning.

“If things could happen to my wishes, there wouldn’t be another coalition government, but I don’t think any party will get enough votes to rule alone,” Matete said.

“I can’t wait for Monday when the results are announced,” said Senate Mokorotlo, 28, just ahead of him in the queue. “This is the end of every trouble.”

Most voters would not name their choice, but Motselisi Khaebama, 49, proudly announced that her vote would go to Thabane.

“I like him personally, and I think he is capable of changing our lives. I want to give him a chance to finish what he started.”

But the ABC faces stiff competition from the Democratic Congress, led by Pakalitha Mosisili, a former prime minister who held power from 1998 to 2012.

The DC won the most National Assembly seats in the 2012 election, but not enough for an outright majority, and it was overpowered by the ABC’s coalition with two smaller parties.

According to local media, about 1.2 million people are registered to vote in the poll, which was negotiated by mediators from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc.

Photo Credits : AFP

Sudan’s Bashir says he will step down if beaten at polls

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday he would stand down if he is voted out at polls in April, as he launched his campaign which he is widely expected to win.

“I will leave but by the ballot box,” Bashir told a rally in Wad Madani southeast of Khartoum, where he was launching his campaign for the presidential election.

Sudan’s mainstream opposition is boycotting the election.

“The Sudanese people hold power and choose who governs and represents them through the ballot box,” he told the cheering crowd on the outskirts of Wad Madani, in Jazira state, a farming area.

Bashir, 71, also criticised his opponents who have said they will boycott the April 13 legislative and presidential elections.

He said there was no place for those seeking power through “conspiracies or foreign allegiance, whether they meet in Addis Ababa or Paris”.

Various groups opposed to his government, including political parties and armed rebels, have signed agreements in the Ethiopian and French capitals.

Standing on a metal stage in front of the supportive crowds, Bashir gave few concrete details of his programme for another term in power.

People arrived in buses from throughout Jazira region to attend the rally, many wearing the traditional gleaming white Sudanese robes and turbans, and waving Sudanese flags and pictures of Bashir.

The ruling National Congress Party started its own campaign for the elections on Tuesday.

Bashir did not attend Tuesday’s launch because he was in the United Arab Emirates, flouting an International Criminal Court indictment for alleged war crimes in the western region of Darfur, where his government has been battling insurgents since 2003.

The career soldier seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup and won an election in 2010, which the opposition also boycotted and observers said failed to meet international standards.

Photo Credits : AFP

Jubilee clears seven aspirants for Kajiado Central primaries

Jubilee coalition Thursday cleared seven candidates to contest for the primaries in the Kajiado Central by-election to determine their best candidate for the seat. Five of those members are from TNA and two from URP.

January 24th is the official date set for the primaries while March 16th is the by-election date. The candidates are; Leina Mpoke, Patrick Tutui, Elijah Memusi Kanchori, Antony Kiroken and Joyce Kimonjino of TNA, Lemaron Nkaato and Stephen Nkabashi of URP.

The seat was left vacant after the member of parliament Joseph Nkaissery was appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary

New bill moves general election to December

The constitutional amendment Bill that seeks to change the general election date from August to December will be published today.

If passed by Parliament, the general election will be held every second Monday of December and not every second Tuesday of August every election year, as provided for in the constitution.

The Bill, sponsored by Ugenya MP David Ochieng’, was approved by the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs committee in August and forwarded to the Attorney General for onward transmission to the government printer.

The publication potentially opens up legal battles, in the face of a High Court ruling that the next elections be held as per the constitution.

Committee chairman Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) said that the Bill should be fast tracked, though there are counter-arguments that it will extend the term of the current Parliament.


India elects first transgender mayor

A low-caste transgender in central India has become the country’s first to win civic polls and be declared mayor.Madhu Bai Kinnar won the municipal election in Raigarh in the central state of Chhattisgarh Sunday, beating her rival from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by more than 4,500 votes, according to the state election commission.

Video footage showed the 35-year-old Kinnar draped in a saree, folding her hands and greeting supporters who placed marigold garlands around her neck amid a blaze of camera flashes.

Kinnar, a member of the Dalit caste previously known as “untouchables”, had been earning a living by singing and dancing on trains, the Press Trust of India reported, but she stopped when asked to represent her community.

“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams,” Kinnar told reporters after winning the election.

Kinnar’s win comes nine months after India’s top court ruled that transgenders be legally recognised as gender-neutral.

Former Ivory Coast First Lady goes on trial for post election violence

Cote d’Ivoire’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo went on trial yesterday for “attempting to undermine the security of the state” in events leading to a bloody 2010-2011 crisis that left thousands dead.

Gbagbo, who has been held for three years and is also wanted by an international court for crimes against humanity, entered the Abidjan court where she is standing trial with 82 others.

The 65-year-old wife of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo wore a yellow silk dress and tressed hair as she faced the judge, while outside riot police were deployed and officers body-searched people entering the law courts.

The trial is viewed as the biggest judicial challenge faced by the post-crisis government of the West African nation.

Nicknamed the “Iron Lady”, Gbagbo is being tried for her role in events leading to months of post-election violence that left some 3 000 people dead and badly rattled the economy of the prosperous cocoa-producing nation.

Violence broke out in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who was declared the winner of a presidential poll.

Laurent Gbagbo himself has been held for three years in The Hague facing charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Cote d’Ivoire has repeatedly refused to hand his wife over to the ICC on the same charge.

The presidential couple were arrested April 11, 2011 after five months of fierce fighting after a final push by French forces against their residence.

Simone Gbagbo had been held under house arrest in Odienne in the northwest of the country since

April 2011 but was transferred to the economic capital, Abidjan, on December 1 ahead of the trial.

Among those seated in the dock next to her, smiling for the cameras, was Gbagbo’s last prime minister Gilbert Ake N’Gbo and Affi N’Guessan, head of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party. Proceedings yesterday were expected to be limited to jury selection, with hearings beginning in earnest on January 5.

“This trial has been rushed through to obtain five million euros pledged by the EU as part of a programme to rehabilitate the Ivorian justice system,” one defence lawyer said.

Simone Gbagbo’s fate has been at the centre of intense negotiations between Cote d’Ivoire and the ICC, with Abidjan refusing her transfer to

The Hague on the grounds that it would undermine the political reconciliation process and that the country is perfectly equipped to stage a just trial.

Cote d’Ivoire recently appealed an ICC demand to hand her over on the grounds that the authorities “were not taking tangible, concrete and progressive steps aimed at ascertaining whether Simone Gbagbo is criminally responsible” for crimes against humanity. — AFP.