Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Nigeria in ‘mad race against time’ to prevent vote rigging

Nigeria in ‘mad race against time’ to prevent vote rigging

Nigeria has set off on what some may consider a near impossible task in Africa’s most populous nation -- holding fair elections -- and has upped the ante by giving itself only four months to prepare.
The electoral commission said this week that presidential, parliamentary and state polls would be held in January, prompting one newspaper columnist to call it the “maddest race against time in the history of Nigerian politics.” Officials face a monumental task in preparing for the ballot in the oil-rich country notorious for election rigging and voter intimidation.
Their tasks include putting together an entirely new voter list, with the 2007 rolls riddled with false entries.
An estimated 70 million voters must be registered across the vast West African country comprising 36 regional states.
The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria described the timetable as “unrealistic and a recipe for failure,” while calling for the polls to be held in April, as they have been in previous years.
“The 2011 elections are critical to the survival of our democracy and the realisation of the consistent pledge by President Goodluck Jonathan to organize free, fair and credible polls,” it said. “We cannot afford to fail.”
Lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment moving the polls forward. The stated intent was to allow more time for disputes over results to be resolved before swearing-in ceremonies in May. Some said the shortened timeframe could benefit Jonathan since it gives opponents less time to mount a campaign.
Jonathan has not yet announced whether he will run, though he is widely expected to do so soon, and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party has been divided over whether it should abandon him in favour of another candidate. Voter registration is now scheduled to be held the first two weeks of November, with presidential polls set for Jan. 22.
The election for parliament is slated for Jan. 15 and governorship ballots are scheduled for Jan. 29.
“It’s a bit rushed. (The electoral commission) should have given itself a little more time ...to plug the loopholes,” said Ikeazor Akaraiwe, who led one of the commission’s monitoring teams in the past. Britain, the former colonial power here, has called efforts to overhaul the voter register “a daunting task in the time available in this, the largest democracy in Africa.”
Britain’s minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, spoke of “the important role of civil society.”
“A system of parallel voting tabulation and transmission of results from the bottom up is needed so that they are not falsified,” he said.
Attahiru Jega, a renowned academic, was installed only in June as head of the electoral commission, which is known as INEC.
The appointment turned heads because of his perceived independence, but he too has spoken of the difficulties in preparing.
Many observers say Jega is well-intentioned, but is up against tough odds. “It is noose tight,” said Olu Obafemi of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, “but the INEC boss enthuses passionate commitment.”
His success will depend largely on whether he is provided proper funding and logistical help, analysts say.
“He will conduct fair, free and credible elections. But he has to deploy the right technology, the right people to do the job,” said Debo Adeniran of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders.
Some analysts even say the accelerated campaign season could be a blessing in disguise.
“It will give politicians limited time and space to plan how to rig and subvert the electoral process,” said Adeniran.
Outspoken human rights lawyer Festus Keyamo said more time would allow politicians “to perfect their rigging skills.”
Others dismissed such talk, saying Nigerian politicians are well-practiced when it comes to manipulating elections.
“Rigging did not start today in Nigeria ... so for anyone to think the sooner the elections, the less time for the politicians to master their rigging skills, is rather naive,” said Akaraiwe.


Updated : 2021-07-24 10:57 GMT+08:00