New Nigeria poll in doubt as SDP announces boycott

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCES that Nigeria's military government will leave office on 27 August, as promised, appeared to dim yesterday after one of two army- created parties rejected a plan to hold new presidential elections.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP), whose candidate, Chief Moshood Abiola, won last month's annulled presidential elections, said it would not participate in the polls. The position, announced by the party chairman, Tony Anenih, appeared to heal a rift between Chief Abiola and the SDP leadership over a previous plan to set up an interim civilian government. The SDP national executive had accepted the compromise as the only way to ease the military out of power, while Chief Abiola had denounced it on Sunday as 'unconstitutional and illegitimate'. The idea died on Monday at a meeting between President Ibrahim Babangida and senior military and police officers.

That leaves the military government with just seven weeks to organise national elections, and if the SDP boycott holds firm, without one of the two parties it created.

Okey Uzoho, spokesman for the National Republican Convention, the second official party, which lost the 12 June polls, said yesterday: 'Our stand is for fresh elections.'

Chief Abiola has filed a suit in the Lagos High Court to force the government to announce the results of the elections, considered by most Nigerian and international observers as the country's fairest ever. The case, to be heard tomorrow, calls for a court injunction to prevent the government from holding new elections.

Some of the harshest criticism of the government has come from former military heads of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo and General Muhammadu Buhari, the man Gen Babangida overthrew in 1985 in a palace coup.

'In the interests of peace, justice, unity and stability of Nigeria, we demand that the Babangida administration be terminated forthwith,' Gen Obasanjo said on Monday after meeting a group of influential Nigerians.

BRUSSELS - The European Community yesterday suspended aid and banned visits from Nigeria's military in protest at the army's refusal to relinquish power, AP reports.