* Ruling party expected to see majority weaken
* Results slow arriving from remote areas
* Poll is litmus test ahead of presidential vote
By Matthew Tostevin and Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, April 10 Election officials in Nigeria
counted ballots from parliamentary polls through the night into
Sunday, some arriving by horseback, in what they hope will be
the nation's first credible vote in almost two decades.
Results starting to trickle in around Africa's most populous
nation showed a strong performance by opposition parties, but in
remote areas such as the northeastern state of Borno on the
fringe of the Sahara, ballot papers were fetched by horse.
At a collation centre in Karo on the outskirts of Abuja,
officials called out numbers above the hum of generators. Party
representatives diligently noted the down the figures in
exercise books and added them up.
Each of around 120,000 polling units counted and announced
their results in front of voters on Saturday and observers were
watching to see whether those figures were faithfully reflected
at the centralised counts.
"Most of the numbers announced at the polling booths are the
same as those read out in the collation centres, so the results
so far are open, fair and justified," said Chinedu Michael, an
observer from the Nigerian Committee on the Defence of Human
Rights in the commercial capital Lagos.
President Goodluck Jonathan's ruling People's Democratic
Party (PDP) is expected to see its parliamentary majority
weaken, coming under strong pressure from the opposition Action
Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the southwest and the Congress for
Progressive Change (CPC) in parts of the north.
"The ACN is leading in the Senatorial and House of
Representatives race in most states in the southwest," Michael
said in Lagos, based on feedback from his colleagues.
Graphic on elections: link.reuters.com/xet78r
For more stories, background and analysis: [nLDE68H051]
At the Karo counting centre it was clear that the CPC was
edging out the PDP across most wards being collated there. There
were no complaints or sign of cheating, though minor
discrepancies were challenged in a laborious process.
Ruling party representative Theodore Ochei said he was
disappointed the PDP had lost in his ward at the centre of
Abuja, but not in the election itself.
"There is no instance of trying to rig, that's why the other
parties are moving in," he said.
"Even if we lost as a party, we as politicians have more
respect. Our leaders might sit up and begin to respect people's
Saturday's election, delayed by a week because of widespread
logistical glitches, was the first in a cycle which includes
presidential elections on April 16 and governorship polls in the
country's 36 states on April 26.
It is seen as a litmus test of whether INEC can organise a
smooth vote and make a break with a long history of polls
discredited by ballot stuffing and thuggery.
The African giant has failed to hold a single vote deemed
credible by observers since the end of military rule in 1999.
Most Nigerians say the closest the country came to a free
election was in 1993, polls which were annulled by former
military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, helping pave the way for
another six years of military rule.
They are hopeful this time will be different.
"I am not tired because I am happy," said Nancy Godwin
Bulus, a local observer from a women's group who had sat up
through the night for the count in Karo.
"Nigerians are heading for democracy. We are advancing to
maturity. We are orderly."
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the
top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ )
(Additional reporting by Nick Tattersall in Lagos and Ibrahim
Mshelizza in Hawul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Joe