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Incumbent Obasanjo declared winner in Nigeria

Opposition refuses to endorse results of presidential vote

Supporters of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo celebrate his apparent re-election despite an EU claim of voting irregularities.
Supporters of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo celebrate his apparent re-election despite an EU claim of voting irregularities.

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ABUJA, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigeria's incumbent president, Olusegun Obasanjo, was declared the winner of the country's presidential election Tuesday, but an opposition leader stormed the podium where the electoral commission chairman was making the announcement and denounced the results as fraud.

International observers also have reported serious irregularities.

According to the official figures, Obasanjo won 62 percent of the vote, followed by Muhammad Buhari, of the opposition All Nigeria People's Party [ANPP], with 32 percent.

The ANPP refused to endorse the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

ANPP Chairman Don Etiebet declared that the ruling People's Democratic Party had stolen the election.

Obasanjo was scheduled to hold a news conference later.

The electoral commission said more than 42 million votes were cast, but as many as 2.5 million ballots were declared invalid.

In an interview with CNN, Obasanjo said the opposition should be able to accept defeat, and he, the victor, should be magnanimous.

He said if he spoke to Buhari, he would tell him, 'Let's move on. You have lost and four years is not a long time, you can try again.'

"Now, it is time for Nigeria to heal," the re-elected president said.

Earlier, the European Union's chief election observer, Max Van den Berg, reported widespread irregularities in six states, mostly in the south and the east, including ballot stuffing in the face of EU observers.

Speaking at a news conference, Van den Berg laid the blame on Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party. There were fewer irregularities in six other states, he said, and in Lagos, Nigeria's largest state, the election went relatively well.

Van den Berg said the only way for elections to be free and fair was for Nigerians to question ballot stuffing and incidents of rigging. He noted that the EU's role was not to police the country, but rather to observe and advise, leaving to Nigerians the responsibility to question the vote.

His comments came less than 24 hours after the International Republican Institute presented its own report of large-scale irregularity in Nigeria's election.

On the other hand, the Commonwealth, a 54-nation group of mostly former British colonial states, said the election largely went well and cited few incidents of violence.

"From the reports of our team, we know that in most of Nigeria a genuine and largely successful effort was made to enable the people to vote freely," the 22-member Commonwealth observer team said.

"But in certain states, the election did not go well... In parts of Enugu and in Rivers state proper electoral processes appear to have broken down and there was intimidation," said the statement, signed by mission head Salim Ahmed Salim.

Diplomats said the statement appeared aimed at steering away from further disputes after arguments over Zimbabwe caused a damaging split in the organization.

-- CNN Lagos bureau chief Jeff Koinange contributed to this report.


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