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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a 76-year-old former military general, made history in the past election in 2015 when he became the first Nigerian opposition leader to be elected president in a democratic transfer of power.AFOLABI SOTUNDE/Reuters

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been elected to a second term in office, defeating a wealthy business tycoon who had promised to liberalize the economy and privatize Nigeria’s state oil company.

With all of the country’s votes counted by Tuesday night, Mr. Buhari had won comfortably. According to official results, he captured about 56 per cent of the vote, compared with about 41 per cent for opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar.

The main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, challenged the official results and complained of “irregularities.” The vote on Saturday was marred by dozens of deaths in election-related violence, as well as low voter turnout in most regions.

The election in oil-rich Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with about 190 million people, is being closely watched as a test of democracy in a country that emerged from military rule only two decades ago. The election results could also influence the Nigerian military’s strategy in its fight against Islamist extremism in the northeast of the country, where thousands of people have been killed by Islamist militia groups and the Nigerian military.

Mr. Buhari, a 76-year-old former military general, made history in the past election in 2015 when he became the first Nigerian opposition leader to be elected president in a democratic transfer of power. His rival, former president Goodluck Jonathan, accepted defeat and stepped down without challenging the results.

But the Nigerian election this month has been more disputed, with the opposition alleging that millions of votes had been manipulated or even eliminated to ensure Mr. Buhari’s victory. At least 47 people have been killed in election-related violence since Saturday, according to a coalition of civil society groups monitoring the election.

Nigerian media reported on Tuesday night that Mr. Abubakar will not concede defeat, but will instead assemble a team of lawyers to challenge the results in court.

The low voter turnout in most regions has led to suspicions of electoral manipulation and concerns about a lack of participation. In Lagos, the country’s biggest city, for example, there were about 6.3 million registered voters, but only about 1.1 million voted, according to the official results.

Election observers from Europe and the United States have expressed concern about logistical problems in the election, but have not suggested that there was any large-scale vote rigging.

Despite its oil wealth and its status as Africa’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria continues to suffer a high poverty rate. It fell into recession in 2016 as its unemployment rate soared. Nearly a quarter of the work force is jobless. Corruption remains a widespread problem, despite Mr. Buhari’s pledge to campaign against it.

Mr. Abubakar, 72, had promised to double the size of Nigeria’s economy by privatizing state companies and liberalizing the economy. But he has faced allegations of corruption, including a U.S. Senate report in 2010 that claimed that he and one of his wives had transferred US$40-million in “suspect funds” – including alleged bribery proceeds – to U.S. bank accounts. He has denied the allegations.

Analysts warned that a victory by Mr. Buhari could hurt the Nigerian economy. “Another term for President Buhari would almost certainly result in the continuation of the growth-sapping policies he has adopted since 2015,” said a report on Tuesday by John Ashbourne, a senior economist at Capital Economics.

He said Mr. Buhari will probably continue the multi-tier system of foreign exchange in Nigeria, which has been widely criticized for damaging foreign investment in the country.

But while Mr. Abubakar was considered to be more market-friendly than Mr. Buhari, there were few other ideological differences between them. The two politicians had been allies in the same political party until about two years ago. Both men are Muslims from northern Nigeria, reducing the regional tensions that have marked previous Nigerian elections.

Mr. Buhari came to power in 2015 with a promise to crush the insurgency by the Boko Haram radical group in northeastern Nigeria. Within months, his government managed to drive out Boko Haram from the last remaining territory that it controlled. But over the past year, Boko Haram and another Islamist radical militia have gathered strength, sometimes overrunning military bases, temporarily capturing towns and inflicting heavy losses on the Nigerian military.

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