Friday 15/04: Elections: Campaigning for the presidential election has drawn to a close and the country will go to the ballot box tomorrow. Last Saturday Nigeria voted for its representatives in the Senate and the National Assembly. The President and leader of the PDP, Goodluck Jonathan appears to be under real pressure after his party lost several seats in the Asssembly.
Despite rapid economic growth and oil revenues, Nigeria’s Human Development Index (an index which combines life expectancy at birth, access to education and gross national income per capita) is still incredibly low. In the 2008-2009 United Nations Development Program Report, Nigeria’s index was O.499, well behind Sudan, one of Africa’s most repressive regimes.
The 2007 elections were widely perceived to “a farce of rigging and intimidation”. However the initial omens for this year’s presidential elections look more promising. The parliamentary elections on the 6th were largely seen as “well conducted”, free and fair. Although 117 ballot boxes were reported stolen, elsewhere ballots were counted in public whilst the final result was thoroughly photographed. This is part of the newly introduced “open secret ballot system” that allows each voter to stand and watch the ballot box being opened.
Chair of the Commonwealth Electoral Observer Group, Festus Mogae stated, "We believe that an important step forward has been taken in Nigeria with the successful conduct of the National Assembly elections". (See the full Commonwealth Statement here)
Tuesday 12/04: Protests: Manzini witnessed some of the most determined protests against the Swazi government. Pro democracy leaders were detained by Swazi Poilce.
Monday 11/04: Elections:The Commonwealth Observer group released its final report on the 18th of February presidential and parliamentary elections. The Commonwealth noted that “while the election campaign and the day of the election were generally calm, problems were reported with regard to the Electoral Commission’s poor management of the process, the lack of a level playing field and the ‘commercialisation of politics’. As a consequence the group found that the key benchmarks for democratic elections were not fully met.” (See the full Commonwealth statement here)
Thursday 14/04: Potests: Walk to work protest were held in Kampala in protest of high prices and government spending. Police opened fire on the protesters, injuring the opposition leader Kizze Besigye. Several opposition politicians, including Besigye were arrested and later released on charges of inciting violence.