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Sunday, December 6, 1998 Published at 08:49 GMT

World: Africa

Monitors cheer Nigeria polls

Nigerian voters show off their polling cards

International observers have praised Nigeria's local elections, saying they augur well for state and national elections due early next year.

Nigeria in transition
With the final results trickling in, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), formed by politicians opposed to the late military ruler General Sani Abacha, looks set to take control of about 60% of local councils.

The elections are the first stage in the military government's plan to restore the country to civilian rule by next May.

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said he was delighted at the evident enthusiasm of Nigerians towards the first polls in the transition to democracy.

PDP Publicity Secretary Gerry Garner: "We are delighted"
Nigeria's military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, said the elections showed that democracy had come to the country to stay.

In second place is the All Peoples Party (APP), made up of politicians that formerly backed General Abacha.

A third party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), cleaned up in the southwest of the country and Nigeria's biggest city Lagos.

Top three go ahead

Of the nine participating parties it is thought only the top three will attract enough votes to proceed to January's state elections.

[ image:  ]
Parties had to secure at least 5% in two thirds of Nigeria's 36 states to go forward. The intention was to try to force the parties to attract support across the deep ethnic and regional divisions of Nigerian society.

Politicians are now likely to embark on a frenetic few weeks of bargaining and deal-making as they seek to secure their own positions in Nigeria's emerging democratic landscape.

The PDP had a successful campaign of alliance building between Nigeria's various ethnic groups and regions.

But the AD gained from the majority ethnic Yoruba voting for them en masse.

[ image: National alliances: PDP reaped rewards]
National alliances: PDP reaped rewards
Ironically, one of the leading presidential aspirants of the PDP, former military head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo, is himself a Yoruba.

But the BBC's Lagos Correspondent Barnaby Phillips says although General Obasanjo is popular in northern Nigeria, many Yorubas feel he has betrayed their interests too often in the past.

Turnout was high and with voting having passed off relatively peacefully, Nigeria's military government has taken encouragement from the poll.

The only reported violence took place in the Niger Delta, where six people died when rival supporters clashed at a remote polling station.

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