Saturday, March 14, 2015 7:52 pm
The Eurasia Group says it has changed its forecast for Nigeria’s 28 March election from a ‘narrow win’ for President Goodluck Jonathan, to an ‘outright victory’ for the opposition candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. He is being tipped to win 60 per cent of the votes.
“The electoral map is tilting towards Buhari in the swing regions of the southwest and middle belt, while high turnout in his core northern base will offset Jonathan’s advantage in the Niger Delta, ” Eurasia, a leading political risk research and consulting company, said in a statement circulated today.
It was signed by Philippe de Pontet, Practice Head, Africa
“We had long viewed Goodluck Jonathan as a favorite to win re-election, but a number of factors now lead us to believe the edge has swung in Buhari’s favor. The election will still be difficult to call, but our expectation of a narrow Jonathan win was predicated on several factors that are losing some saliency late in the campaign.
“Chief among them is the incumbency and financial advantages of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While this still helps Jonathan, its impact is blunted by the intensity of support for Buhari, lacklustre grassroots campaigning by the PDP, and new anti-rigging measures by the electoral commission. New permanent voting cards and card readers will sharply reduce the level of rigging seen in 2011, when Jonathan beat Buhari in a landslide. Equally important are the enthusiasm gap between the candidates and widespread desire for change. Tepid support for Jonathan, even within his own party, means there is no guarantee that patronage will translate into votes. This is especially the case in the north where influential PDP governors and other leaders are taking the money but barely campaigning for Jonathan because of Buhari’s overwhelming popularity in the region.
“While we expected the electoral map to favor Jonathan, current trends suggest that the swing regions may side with Buhari, including the Christian-majority and heavily populated southwest around Lagos. That could be the decisive demographic factor in the election. Jonathan won the southwest and middle belt handily in 2011, but faces an uphill task now. Buhari has reached out to the southwestern Yoruba community and brought them into the upper ranks of his campaign and potential administration, in a political alliance of the country’s two largest ethnic groups (the Hausa and Yoruba). In contrast, Jonathan has struggled to make inroads with either group.
“The spotty polling data which is available is also trending in favor of Buhari. A recent poll by a credible local think tank, the Center for Public Policy Alternatives, showed a heavy 58-32% lead for Buhari in Lagos state—a state in which Jonathan handily defeated Buhari last election. While a national poll by Afrobarometer in January showed a statistical dead heat at 42% for each candidate, economic conditions with the weakening naira continue to deteriorate, along with the security environment.
“According to an IPSOS/Eurasia Group model for predicting elections, incumbents have a hard time winning re-election when their approval ratings are below 40%. We don’t have polling data to confirm where Jonathan is now, but given he was at around 50% at the end of last year, our best guess is that he is below 40% now.
“In addition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has suffered few defections during the campaign despite plenty of PDP inducements, suggesting a relatively united coalition whose members have confidence in the prospects of victory. In contrast, the PDP has been weakened by internal power struggles, including the dramatic departure from the party by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Another obstacle for the PDP is the downturn in the economy, especially the naira devaluations that have hit pocketbooks hard in the import-dependent country. That has played into the APC’s rallying call for change at an inopportune time for the ruling party.
Despite some important military gains against Boko Haram in the northeast and a partial exoneration of its oil revenue management in a recent PWC audit, the PDP is starting to look desperate. Examples include: forcing the election delay, seeking (unofficially) the resignation of respected Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission (INEC) head Attahiru Jega, questioning Buhari’s health, playing sectarian politics, and casting doubts about the new permanent voter cards. This raises the possibility of another election delay, but we think that is relatively unlikely, in part because it would probably backfire politically and would certainly do so internationally. While some of his aides and military leaders may feel otherwise, Jonathan himself is unlikely to support such a maneuver.