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Cablegate: Nigeria: Governor Imoke (Pdp) Wins Cross River

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TREASURY FOR DFIELDS, AIERONIMO, RHALL
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: GOVERNOR IMOKE (PDP) WINS CROSS RIVER
STATE RE-RUN ELECTION

1. (SBU) Summary: On August 23, Cross River State Governor
Liyel Imoke of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) won the
re-election ordered by a Federal Appeals Court on July 15.
While the Independent National Election Commission (INEC)
claimed the election was free and fair, opposition parties
and election observers alleged massive election fraud. Even
without fraud, opposition parties are often too financially
handicapped to be able to mount a serious challenge to
sitting governors. End Summary.

2. (SBU) A new gubernatorial election in Cross River State
was held on August 23, following a July 15 ruling by a
Federal Appeals Court that voided the results of the 2007
election. Liyel Imoke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),
who was elected governor in the 2007 election, was again
declared the winner by INEC. According to INEC, Imoke won
650,723 votes while his closest rival, Paul Ukpo of the All
Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), polled only 15,732 votes.

3. (SBU) Opposition politicians alleged that voter turnout
for the new election was exceptionally low, reflecting voter
apathy and making the figures published by INEC
unsupportable. Theo Onyuko, spokesman for a coalition of
opposition parties, told PolSpec that there was massive
electoral fraud in several local government areas outside the
capital city of Calabar. Onyuko also alleged that INEC
officers connived with PDP agents to falsify election
results. He said due to lack of resources, opposition
candidates were not represented in many polling stations in
remote rural areas, paving the way for the massive inflation
of election results.

4. (SBU) Felicia Arikpo, head of the Calabar chapter of the
independent election observation organization Transition
Monitoring Group (TMG), likewise told PolSpec that voter
turnout was very poor in all the polling stations she
visited. Arikpo said that due to insufficient funds, TMG
could not recruit enough volunteers to cover the election
state-wide, frustrating TMG's plan to have comprehensive
coverage of the election and publish a full assessment of the
process and results.

5. (SBU) In an August 20 meeting prior to the election, the
leading opposition candidate Paul Ukpo (ANPP) told Poloff and
PolSpec that the ruling PDP government, aided by security
agents and state officials, harassed and intimidated
opposition candidates. He claimed he was denied access to
state television and given no media coverage by other
state-owned media. Ukpo complained further that security
agents denied him the permission to hold campaign rallies.
Ukpo stressed that while Imoke liberally drew on state
resources, including official vehicles and police, to conduct
his campaign, the opposition parties lacked the resources to
effectively contest the election.

6. (SBU) Comment: As in similar elections, the re-run in
Cross River State demonstrates a weakness in the current
electoral review process. Having expended huge amounts of
capital on the main election and the legal dispute that
followed, many opposition parties are financially unable to
effectively contest new elections. Thus even without
election fraud, the ruling party candidate has an enormous
advantage over all challengers, often rendering the results
of re-elections a foregone conclusion. The apparent outcome
is that the electorate sees these re-run elections as a farce
and will become increasingly disillusioned with the
democratic process. End Comment.
BLAIR

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