Nigerian President Buhari Wins First Two of 36 States

(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari won the first two of 36 states for which results were being announced by the election commission in a general election that was partly marred by delays, technical glitches and sporadic violence.

Buhari, 76, defeated his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, in Ekiti state by a 58 percent to 40 percent margin, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced Monday in the capital, Abuja. Buhari lost the election in Ekiti four years ago. He also won in Osun state by a 49 to 47 percent margin.

As many as 73 million people were eligible to vote Saturday in a tight race between Buhari, an ex-general who campaigned on an anti-graft platform, and Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and former vice president. INEC’s announcement of the full results could take one or two days.

Nigerian President Buhari Wins First Two of 36 States

The presidential and parliamentary election in Africa’s top oil producer was the continent’s biggest-ever democratic exercise. Much will depend on turnout, which was less than 44 percent four years ago when Buhari became the first opposition candidate elected to the presidency in the West African nation’s history.

Election Day Fatalities

At least 39 people were killed in election-related violence, Clement Nwankwo, the chairman of Situation Room, a monitoring group, told reporters Monday in Abuja. The inspector general of police, who didn’t give a death toll, said 128 people were arrested across the country for offenses such as homicide and snatching of ballot boxes. INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said an election worker was killed by a stray bullet in Rivers state.

“Significant shortcomings have been recorded,” said Nwankwo. African Union Election Observation Mission head Hailemariam Desalegn said the vote was “largely peaceful and orderly,” during a press conference in Abuja.

To win, a candidate must get the majority of votes and at least 25 percent in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and Federal Capital Territory. If none of them achieve that, there’ll be a second round. Analysts were more or less split down the middle over who would win ahead of the election.

Nigerian President Buhari Wins First Two of 36 States

The PDP suffered an early blow when one of its highest-profile politicians, Senate President Bukola Saraki, lost his seat in the southwestern state of Kwara to the candidate from Buhari’s party, the Nigerian Television Authority reported, citing INEC’s returning officer in the state, Olawale Olatunbosun.

Despite the late opening of polls in the south-east, Abubakar’s opposition People’s Democratic Party won “strong shares of the vote” there and increased its support in the south-west, which contains the commercial capital of Lagos, and the north-central zone, he said in a statement.

Buhari’s All Progressives Congress touted that he’d won at the polling station where Abubakar voted, in the northeastern state of Adamawa. The president easily won at the unit where he cast his ballot in the state of Katsina in the north.

Wall Street banks such as Citigroup Inc. say Nigerian equities and bonds will probably rally if Abubakar wins. Since Buhari came to office, Nigeria’s stock market has been the world’s worst performer, losing about half its value in dollar terms. The stock market rose 0.4 percent as of 12:38 a.m. in Lagos.

Just hours before the election started in Africa’s most populous nation, Islamist militants fired artillery shells into the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the military said in a statement. The insurgents, some allied to Islamic State, have been fighting in the region for a decade in a bid to impose their version of shariah law.

While Buhari and Abubakar are both northern Muslims in a country split roughly evenly between a Christian south and Islamic north, their career paths are very different.

Buhari ruled the country briefly in the 1980s and morphed into a civilian politician who won on his fourth try for the presidency in 2015. Abubakar, a former vice president, has business interests ranging from oil and gas services to food manufacturing and a private university.

Both carry heavy baggage. Buhari and his APC have faced sharp criticism for their handling of the economy. The president imposed capital controls as the naira currency came under pressure amid plunging revenue from oil, the country’s main export, and foreign investors fled. After an economic contraction in 2016, the economy expanded 1.9 percent last year, the fastest since Buhari’s election.

Yet Nigeria now has more extremely poor people, 87 million, than any other nation, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. The United Nations expects its population to double to 410 million by 2050, overtaking everywhere bar India and China.

Nigerian President Buhari Wins First Two of 36 States

Buhari’s supporters paint him as an honest politician who provides a sharp counterpart to the PDP that governed Nigeria for 16 years from the end of military rule in 1999.

Buhari’s suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, accused of falsely declaring his assets, just weeks before the presidential election, was criticized by the legal community, the U.S. and the European Union, because the vote results may be contested in the Supreme Court.

Abubakar portrays himself as someone who knows how to get things done and his pro-market policies have won some favor among investors. While he’s faced allegations of corruption, he denies any wrongdoing and has never been indicted at home or abroad.

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