Nigeria elects its president, a close ballot between three favorites

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The Nigeria elects its president, a tight ballot between three favorites

A voter places her ballot in a ballot box in Agulu.

Counting operations began on Saturday afternoon in Nigeria, which elects the president of Africa's most populous country in a tight ballot between three favorites, but voting continued in many places due to delays and isolated incidents.

After two mandates marked by the explosion of insecurity and poverty in this country where 60% of the population Under 25, 80-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari is stepping down as the Constitution dictates.

And for the first time since the return to democracy in 1999, the popularity of a third candidate is shaking up the predominance of the two main parties. Nigeria could therefore experience a two-round presidential election.

One! Two! Three! counted aloud voters at a polling station in Port Harcourt as poll workers counted the first ballots.

Juliette Ogbonda, a 30-year-old receptionist, was among many voters who decided to stay after the vote: I want to make sure this election is transparent, free and fair.

More than 87 million voters were called, in 176,000 polling stations, to choose a president among 18 candidates, as well as deputies and senators.

At 2:30 p.m. local time, the official closing time of the polls, the first counts began in Lagos or Abuja, where the vote was generally calm, noted journalists from the #x27;AFP.

However, by late afternoon, voting continued in several polling stations across the country, for example in Anambra or Kano, where voters began voting well after 8:30 a.m. (CET). official opening), mainly due to delays in the deployment of hardware or technical failures.

Voting here didn't start until noon, allegedly because their machine wasn't working, laments Blessing Mbanefo, who stood in line for long hours outside a polling station in Akwa.

< p class="e-p">However, I am ready to sleep here if necessary: ​​I came to vote and I will, says the 21-year-old student.

This is the first time that new technologies have been used on a national scale. The identification of voters by facial and digital recognition was intended to limit the fraud that has marred previous elections, as was the electronic transfer of results.

Isolated incidents with attempts to #x27;Intimidation and thug attacks in some offices, notably in Lagos, have been reported by the Electoral Commission (INEC), which however claims that the electoral process is continuing.

Presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu arrives with his wife Oluremi Tinubu at a polling station in Ikeja, capital of Lagos State.

In the morning, the party's candidate for power (APC) Bola Tinubu, 70, cast his vote in his Lagos stronghold where, dressed in a blue caftan, he was greeted by a packed crowd.

The former governor (1999-2007) is nicknamed the godfather because of his political influence. Yoruba of Muslim faith, he claims to be the only one who can straighten out Nigeria and has already warned: this time it's my turn to govern.

However, nothing is played against its two main opponents. At 76, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, of the opposition (PDP, in power from 1999 to 2015), will seek the presidency for the sixth time.

People's Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar (second from left) looks on as his wife, Amina Titi Abubakar (second from right), getting ready to vote in a polling station in his constituency in Yola.

A native of the North and of Muslim faith, he hopes to win many votes there.

After voting in Yola, the candidate – who in 2019 challenged his defeat by President Buhari – said: This election is more credible than previous ones.

The candidate who could cause the surprise is the former governor of Anambra Peter Obi, a 61-year-old Christian, supported by the small Labor Party (LP) and very popular with the youth and in his region.

If this election is free and credible, then I think I will win, he told AFP after voting in his native village, Amatutu.

Peter Obi, presidential candidate for the Liberal Party of Nigeria, casts his ballot in his hometown of Agulu.

This vote is crucial. Nigeria – 216 million inhabitants – is expected to become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, while West Africa is threatened by a strong democratic backsliding and by the spread of jihadist violence.

The continent's leading economy has become a global cultural power thanks in particular to afrobeats, a musical genre that is setting the planet ablaze with stars like Burna Boy and Wizkid.

However, the future president will mostly inherit a myriad of problems: criminal and jihadist violence in the north and center, separatist unrest in the south -est, runaway inflation and widespread impoverishment.

To make matters worse, recent shortages of petrol and banknotes have sparked riots.

Voter turnout, low in previous elections (33% in 2019), was still i nknown by late afternoon.

The results are to be announced within 14 days, but the Commission has promised to make them public as soon as possible.

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