Monday, February 2, 2015

Nigeria: Elections test of peace vs power

Africa’s most populous nation may be careening toward trouble. While Nigeria has recently captured international headlines for its battle against the murderous terrorist group Boko Haram, the most immediate threats to the country’s stability are not bullets from Islamist militants, but ballots.

In February, Nigeria, home to almost 200 million people, will hold what will essentially be the first electoral contest between the country’s two major parties, the incumbent People’s Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. The PDP has won every election since Nigeria transitioned from military to democratic rule in 1999, but the APC, formed last year from a coalition of opposition parties, threatens its dominance. This is a sea change in a political landscape already inflamed by north-south tensions, an overly militarized political culture and pressure on the economy due to falling oil prices. Add to the mix the Boko Haram threat and the nation’s ill-prepared electoral commission, and the country has a recipe for an explosive general-election season.

There are disturbing signs that this year’s campaign could prompt an escalation. Reports have surfaced of an unprecedented influx of illegal arms trafficked into the country ahead of the elections, especially in the oil-rich Niger Delta (which includes Mr. Jonathan’s turbulent home state) and in the northeast. State and local politicians have taken to arming their supporters.

The Washington Post

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