Nigeria: Elections in a Fragile Regime

Issue Date July 2003
Volume 14
Issue 3
Page Numbers 131-144
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Nigeria’s recent elections mark a potential watershed in the country’s troubled political history. Since independence, no civilian government has successfully completed the passage from one administration to another. Twice previously, elections under civilian control degenerated into violence and fraud, forfeiting democratic legitimacy and giving way to military intervention. The 2003 polls, embroiled in disarray, misconduct, and confrontation, carried worrisome echoes of previous failures. The country appears to have weathered its turbulent season, perhaps yielding a new lease on life for Nigerian democracy. Yet this crisis-ridden regime faces major hurdles to consolidation, in a volatile setting of elite contention, social polarization, institutional challenges, and economic malaise. Nigeria’s current trials call attention to the nexus of performance, legitimacy, and democratic consolidation.