Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Ahead of the 2019 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concern over the internal disputes in the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The commission said the source of its worry is that such crisis has always affected its preparations for elections negatively.
The commission also said apart from the to leading parties, five other parties it described as minor are currently having one form of internal crisis or the other, but not to the magnitude of that within the PDP and APC.
Speaking at a one-day roundtable on internal party democracy and the role of civil society organisations in strengthening political party primaries in Nigeria organised by the International Republican Institute, the Chairperson of the Election and Party Monitoring unit of the commission, Prof. Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, said the intractable issues within the two major political parties remain the most problematic and worrisome to the commission.
Okoosi-Simbine highlighted some of the problems to include indiscriminate and last minute switching or late submission of nomination for elective office which affects the commission’s preparations for elections, adding that the issue of which party leaders to liaise with during preparations for elections should be addressed early enough.
She said the unwillingness of politicians to adhere to internal party democracy was responsible for frequent conflicts which tend to limit the development of parties as popular organisations.
She said: “Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are crucial, important and essential stakeholders of every election management body and the INEC continues to find their work invaluable in carrying out its constitutional roles.
On the role CSOs in the conduct of elections, the INEC scribe said through their constructive criticism and engagement, they can help the commission to stay focused on its duties.
They also help the commission’s foremost stakeholders- political parties to be more responsive to the commission’s expectations of them. CSOs can also partner with political parties in their critical function of citizen and voter education and mobilisation.
“With regard to Internal Party Democracy (ICPD), CSOs can focus their analysis and assessment of the process and activities of the political parties and constructively engage them toward improving same.
“IPD refers to the internal management and functioning of political parties and party systems based on democratic principles that reflect in areas such as leadership and candidate selection, membership and inclusivity issues and party funding among others.
“The unwillingness to allow internal party democracy leads to frequent conflicts and constrains the development of parties as popular organisations. Expectedly, this lead to internal party crisis and low level of inclusivity (of non influential members, youths and women) for strong political position.
“Ultimately, parties will not be able to attain the expected degree of institutionalisations especially in the areas of structure, organisation, internal cohesion and discipline. This deficiency contributes to the decline of political parties conflict management capacities at intra party relations levels.
“Certainly, at least five (major) parties have internal issues that have come to the attention of the commission. Many others are experiencing some form of disharmony or another, but the knotty issues within the two major political parties remain the most problematic and worrisome.”
In his remarks, the Country Director of the International Republican Institute, Sentell Barnes said since the institute began its work of supporting the development of political parties in Nigeria in 1998, most of its activities have tilted towards improving internal party democracy.
According to him, this is based on the conviction that lack of internal party democracy constitutes the greatest challenge to party development which invariably affects the prospects of credible and transparent electoral processes and outcomes.
He said the fact that the conduct of internal party processes are shrouded in secrecy makes it susceptible to manipulation of powerful and influential forces within and outside the party.
“While absence of funding and membership mechanism, functional organisational structure, dearth of professional leadership and exclusion of women and youth despite their population are obvious challenges to political parties; the undemocratic, chaotic and selective manner most parties conduct their internal elections has remained the bane of our democracy trajectory,” he said.