DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone February 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure northeastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official close to the commission told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.
A major offensive with warplanes and ground troops from Chad and Nigeria already has forced the insurgents from a dozen towns and villages in the past 10 days. Even greater military strikes by more countries are planned.
The official who is knowledgeable of the discussions said the Independent National Electoral Commission will announce the postponement at a news conference later Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Officials in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had been calling for a postponement, which is opposed by an opposition coalition fielding his chief rival, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari.
Supporters of both sides are threatening violence if their candidate does not win. Some 800 people were killed in riots in the mainly Muslim north after Buhari, a Muslim, lost 2011 elections to Jonathan, a Christian from the south.
A postponement also will give electoral officials more time to deliver some 30 million voter cards. The commission had said the non-delivery of cards to nearly half of the 68.8 million registered voters was not a good reason to delay the vote.