The decision by Nigeria’s electoral commission to postpone the upcoming general election due to security concerns over the Boko Haram insurgency has brought the country closer to a political crisis. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its decision Saturday based on the military’s assessment that it could not guarantee security at the polls amid newly announced military operations in Nigeria’s troubled northeastern states. The election were originally scheduled for this coming Saturday. Critics, however, say the delay is a political move by President Goodluck Jonathan, who is facing fierce competition from main opposition party candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
Few expect the military to significantly rein in Boko Harm ahead of the vote, now planned for March 28. And if election are delayed yet again, the government could end up holding power past the planned leadership transition on May 29. Such a crisis could throw Africa’s richest and most populous country into a political impasse, threatening its already fragile peace and leading to major economic fallout.
The potential of a delayed vote to add to the woes of a country already facing sharp criticism for its inability to contain the Islamist insurgency is evident. The naira slid to a record low on international exchanges Monday, and Standard & Poor warned Tuesday that it might downgrade Nigeria’s BB credit rating. Post-election unrest is expected in different parts of the country, especially in the southwestern states of Kaduna, no matter the winner.