INEC Plans to Review Political Parties Regulations to Accommodate COVID-19 Protocols

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By Ibrahim Shuaibu

The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that it’s planning to review its regulations and guidelines for political parties to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.

The INEC Deputy Director, Election and Monitoring, Shehu Wahab, stated this at the opening of a retreat on COVID-19 protocol for officials yesterday in Kano, which was organised with support from European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).

Wahab said the retreat was to review INEC guidelines to accommodate COVID-19 protocols and other related matters.

According to him, the retreat is being organised by INEC to comprehensively review guidelines and regulations relating to political parties and election observations.

The Project Coordinator of ECES, Mr. Hamza Fass-Fihri, also noted that the retreat was laudable as it was aimed at operationalising the INEC COVID-19 policy, particularly in relation to engagements and monitoring of political parties.

He said: “Political parties are the primary stakeholders in the political system, and their effective operations within the context of existing legal frameworks are crucial to the credibility of the electoral process and outcomes, and by extension, the stability of the democratic system.

“However, the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on every facet of national life, including how democracy must work.

“It means actors within the political system can no longer do things as usual, because of the ravaging impacts of the pandemic especially on mass-based activities such as elections and political parties activities.

“The imperatives of exercising political rights are now being challenged or constrained with the reality of a pandemic that has no known cure so far.”

Fass-Fihri added: “It is therefore a pragmatic step that INEC has formulated COVID-19 policy that will guide all stakeholders in the electoral process, including political parties.

“Having implemented the policy in two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States and several bye-elections, it is indeed a commendable step that this retreat is being organised among other objectives to seek ways to operationalise INEC COVID-19 policy in engagements with political parties.”

He further stated that the retreat could not have come at a better time given the recent spike in the cases of COVID-19 in several parts of the country.

The project coordinator of ECES said it was obvious that Nigeria has to live with the restrictions of COVID-19 for some time.

“Political parties, by virtue of their positions as mass mobilisation organs of the democratic system, must organise frequent rallies, campaigns and conventions with the inherent danger of large scale transmission of diseases.

“Mainstreaming a comprehensive COVID-19 response into guidelines and regulations of political parties is a necessary step towards stemming the pandemic as well as devising innovative ways of ensuring that political parties continue to play their crucial roles as primary actors in the democratic process,” he said.