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Monday, April 20, 1998 Published at 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK

World: Africa

Nigerian elections to be scrapped
image: [ General Abacha: hopes of free and fair elections have been dashed ]
General Abacha: hopes of free and fair elections have been dashed

The long-promised Nigerian presidential elections will no longer take place, according to a senior government spokesman.

BBC correspondent Hilary Anderson says many Nigerians are disillusioned (2'42'')
Kalifa Hassan Yusuf, the deputy head of the transition implementation committee, said they will be replaced by a referendum on August 1, in which Nigerians will vote either for, or against the military leader General Sani Abacha.

The decision comes after the last of five officially authorised political parties endorsed General Abacha as their candidate for the forthcoming elections.

The government has said the general might stand as a military officer, not a civilian.

Abacha's struggle to hold power

The BBC Lagos Correspondent says Presidential elections are a key part of the military's four-year-old promise to hand over power to a civilian government this year.

[ image: Opposition groups say the political process has been manipulated]
Opposition groups say the political process has been manipulated
General Abacha had publicly refused to put himself forward as a candidate but there has been a rapid series of political developments over the last few days, which seem designed to allow the general to claim his hand is being forced.

Earlier on Monday, the Grassroots Democratic Movement became the last of the five government-registered political parties to adopt the general as its presidential candidate, although there were tense scenes in the hall the voting took place.

When the party's constitution was hurriedly amended to allow the general, a non-party member, to be nominated, some of his opponents started shouting in fury, "We don't want cheating. We don't want Abacha".

About 20 armed riot police entered the hall and stayed there throughout the rest of the proceedings.

Opposition boycott

Nigeria's political opposition has said it will boycott elections for a national assembly due to take place on Saturday, and any elections thereafter. The opposition has called on its supporters to embark on a programme of mass action to disrupt the government's political programme.

Civil unrest has been on the rise over the last two months in Nigeria, as the well-organised campaign for General Abacha to stay on in power has gained momentum.

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