Nigeria's Vote: the Numbers, the Surprises, the Market Reaction
(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner Wednesday of a Feb. 23 general election, in which he decisively beat his main rival, Atiku Abubakar, to secure a second and final four-year term.
Here’s an analysis of the numbers, swings, political casualties and market reaction.
Numbers and Swing States
Buhari got 15.2 million votes, about 200,000 less than when he came to office in 2015. But support for Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party dropped even more -- to 11.3 million votes from 12.9 million. That meant Buhari’s victory margin of 56 percent to 41 percent was higher than four years ago, when it was 54 percent to 45 percent.
Low turnout probably played into the hands of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress. It was just 36 percent, compared to about 45 percent last time. Crucially, voting numbers were way down in the PDP’s strongholds of the south-east and south-south, two of Nigeria’s six so-called geopolitical zones. In the two regions, there were 5.6 million valid votes, versus 7.9 million in 2015, figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission show. Abubakar rejected the results and said he’d challenge them in court, arguing that the government used the military in these two zones to harass citizens and reduce the turnout.
Buhari dominated in the north, winning all but two of its 13 regions. One of those that swung to the PDP was Adamawa, where Abubakar hails from. Buhari’s share of votes fell in the south-west, which includes the commercial capital of Lagos, but the impact was mitigated by low turnout. In Lagos, a city of 15 million to 20 million people, only 1.1 million valid votes were cast.
Aside from Abubakar, the biggest one was Senate President Bukola Saraki, an opposition figure who lost his seat to the APC in the western state of Kwara, where his family has long dominated politics. Saraki is one of Nigeria’s most ambitious politicians and challenged Abubakar in the PDP’s primaries. APC supporters were jubilant at Saraki’s loss, given that he had sparred regularly with Buhari over legislation.
Senate and House of Representatives
Final numbers for the parliamentary votes are still coming in. Buhari has won 47 seats to the PDP’s 26 in the 109-seat Senate so far and is “on course to take a healthy majority,” according to Michael Famoroti, a partner at Stears Business in Lagos.
If that happens, and especially if Buhari gets a more pliant Senate president this time around, it could help him push through reforms more easily.
The APC is also winning the race for the 360-seat House, having won 75 to the PDP’s 28, Famoroti said.
Stock investors reacted negatively, with the main index in Lagos falling 0.7 percent Wednesday, bringing its two-day drop to 1.4 percent. A former general, Buhari is a proponent of the government retaining a strong grip on the economy. Since he was first elected in May 2015, Nigeria’s stock market has been the world’s worst performer, losing almost half its value in dollar terms.
Naira bonds rose for a fourth straight day, indicating that fixed income traders are less worried than their equity counterparts about weak economic growth and are more focused on the currency and yields on offer. Buhari favors keeping the naira strong and steady, meaning the central bank may come under pressure to keep yields elevated.
“Buhari winning and a largely peaceful election means the status quo will be intact,” said Kevin Daly, a money manager in London with Aberdeen Standard Investments, who recently bought one-year bills issued by the central bank.
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