Inconclusive Polls, Attributes of Deepening Democracy, Says INEC

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By John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has attributed the growing phenomenon of inconclusive elections in the country to deepening democracy and improved integrity of the electoral system.

Speaking while issuing certificates of return to the re-elected governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the deputy governor elect, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, and 34 members-elect of the state House of Assembly, at the state INEC headquarters Thursday, the National Commissioner supervising Niger, Plateau and Kaduna States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, decried the attitude of some political parties and candidates who engaged in violent behaviour, including the manhandling of election officials, intimidation of voters, as well as collation and returning officers during the 2019 elections.

According to her, “Nigerian democracy was deepening incrementally, having conducted sixth successive elections without an interregnum; there is improved integrity in the electoral system.”

She said elections in Nigeria were ”becoming more and more competitive and the margin between winners and runners-up are decreasing to the extent that in many instances elections into the executive and legislatures are increasingly becoming inconclusive”.

”This explains why the phenomenon of inconclusive elections appears to have
increased.

“To be sure, it existed prior to the existence of the present commission. We cannot expect less when a few big parties are contesting for power at every level,” she said.

Okoosi-Simbine said the situation was further compounded by lack of internal democracy and the desperate quest for power by politicians and their supporters.

”The pathetic crisis of lack of internal democracy in the parties and the desperation of the candidates and their supporters, driven by the fear of losing all tend to compound the problem.

”Let me particularly mention the negative role of violence in our elections. Democratic elections are rule-based and those parties, candidates and supporters that resort to self-help by taking the path of violence undermine the virtues of democratic elections which include choice in absolute freedom and peace.

”Unfortunately, the 2019 elections marked a new trend in which some parties and candidates engaged in violent behaviour, including manhandling election duty officials and intimidation of voters, collation and returning officers,” she said.

Okoosi-Simbine said the commission views the trend with grave concerns and will continue to work on greater voter enlightenment for mandate protection as well as with the security agencies to curtail the ugly trend.

The INEC national commissioner advised individuals and political parties not satisfied with the outcome of the elections to seek judicial remedy where they believe they have genuine case(s) to pursue.

“Indeed, seeking judicial remedy is not only a part and parcel of the electoral process in Nigeria, it is consistent with the culture of democracy as opposed to resorting to self-help,” she said.

She congratulated the people of Kaduna State and stakeholders for their conduct during the elections and commended security agencies for their extraordinary performance.

While congratulating el-Rufai for his re-election, Okoosi-Simbine said: “I believe that your re-election is a referendum in which the people of Kaduna State have passed a vote of confidence.

“I encourage you to deliver more material benefits to the diversity of people in Kaduna in order to meet their governance expectations.

“I also congratulate the elected state Assembly members, including those who are returning. I hope that you will provide the necessary oversight of the executive and put the state in a good stead to deliver the benefits of democracy. After all, what is a democracy if it does not impact positively on the lives of the people?

“Let me conclude that as our democracy improves including the reform of the rules of the game and the regulations and guidelines of the commission, we will continue to serve you by ensuring that only those who truly win the hearts of the majority of the electorate are returned elect.”