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Nigerian Election Delay a Good Sign for Democracy?

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FULL DISCLOSURE: As someone who has been active in both advising on and overseeing elections in Africa and Nigeria, I have worked for several pro-democracy candidates in Nigeria, including President Goodluck Jonathan.

Last week, I wrote about why Nigeria will not need "A Tahrir Moment". Though the recent postponement of the elections -- announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) -- is a temporary setback in the electoral process, there is a silver lining to the news that much of the media are not picking up on.

In a country with a history plagued by suspicions of vote rigging, it's a positive sign that the Electoral Commission has been allowed to operate independently and come to the decision to delay the polls rather than pushing through elections that it was not yet prepared to conduct.

To his credit, President Goodluck Jonathan ensured that the commission would be able to make its own judgments without pressure from political officials -- including his own office. And when the INEC announced that it would be delaying the elections to ensure that they were carried out fairly, President Jonathan honored that commitment. He accepted the decision of the Commission, saying that he understood the frustration of Nigerians who were looking forward to voting but that "it is better to delay and do it well" so that the results are credible and every Nigerian can trust that his or her vote is counted.

The Electoral Commission is now working quickly to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to carry off the fairest and cleanest election in Nigeria's history. In the context of that history, the fact that all parties have come together and agreed with the independent Commission to delay the elections by one week is no minor feat. And it's a good sign that the International community can have faith in the process there.

These elections will not be perfect -- no election ever is, even in countries like the U.S., which have a long history of dedication to the democratic process. But President Goodluck Jonathan's "hands off" policy has given INEC and his country the opportunity to take the first real steps to democracy and government of the people, for the people, and by the people.