Observers Say Nigeria's Vote Was Flawed

The problems with the Nigerian elections illustrate how little problems with elections are problematic and also illustrate both the importance of, and limits to, election observation. As the Washington Post noted,

The two main opposition parties on Sunday denounced the conduct of Nigeria’s presidential elections while an influential, homegrown observer group called for a cancellation of the vote meant to cement civilian rule in Africa’s top oil producer. Turnout appeared low for Saturday’s presidential vote, which was marked by ballot-paper shortages in opposition strongholds, intimidation by thugs and open rigging favoring the ruling party of outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo.

There were also problems caused by the courts, related to challenges of when candidates were ruled eligible to be on the ballot.

Presidential ballots distributed Saturday in many parts of the country lacked serial numbers or any other unique distinguishing marks that would guard against fraud by allowing officials to track the papers from ballot boxes through collation centers. Iwu, the electoral commission chairman, said there was no time to print serialized ballots as Abubakar had to be added this week, after the Supreme Court overruled the commission’s decision to keep the vice president off the ballot.

We also see here that, even though there were irregularities, it is not evident that there is a clear rule for fixing the irregularities. In most instances, the only way to fix such things would be to re-run the election, and few nations are going to do such a thing. This, however, has not stopped the nation’s largest election monitoring body to suggest such a thing. As Forbes reports:

Results were not expected until Monday but, with reports of widespread electoral chaos in a country twice the size of France, the country’s largest observer body, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), said it might request the cancellation of the poll.

The key question is what authority and leverage they have to force such a thing.