Election Universe

6 reasons to keep an eye on the 2015 Nigerian Elections

6 reasons to keep an eye on the 2015 Nigerian Elections
February 12 2015, 19:33

1. Wind of democratic change in Africa’s giant. Even though incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated Nigerian politics since civilian rule was restored, political experts argue that things could be about to change in Africa’s biggest economy. Jonathan, who is seeking a second four-year term, now faces its toughest election challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari’s alliance of opposition parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC). According to The Guardian “although an Afrobarometer poll suggested the election was too close to call, Buhari seemed to have greater momentum in recent weeks.” Note to remember: Buhari, who is running for a fourth time against the PDP, is confident that he will win. PDP, however, has swept all three general elections since 1999.

2. Postponement controversy. The country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Attahiru Jega, announced that the national elections, i.e., presidential and national assembly, have been postponed from February 14 to March 28, 2015; while the governorship and state assembly elections will take place on April 11, 2015. The decision to delay the vote was attributed to security concerns related to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast. The electoral commission said it made the decision after the security agencies advised there would not be enough troops available to guarantee the safety of voters. Some Nigerians disagree with the decision and believe it is a political move to benefit the ruling party. Note to remember: 17 out of the 28 registered political parties supported postponing the elections, while 12 opposed, including the leading opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC).

3. Innovation in the Electoral system. When voting, presenting the new Biometric Permanent Voters’ Cards, will now be mandatory. Yet, the INEC has admitted that less than half of the 66.8 million eligible voters have obtained their identity cards. On the other hand, the delay of the election would allow more people to collect their cards and, it will give the electoral commission more time to distribute biometric voter cards to millions of citizens who were at risk of being disenfranchised. Some voters have expressed to the BBC that the new system using permanent voter cards -66% of which have been distributed to voters- would ensure a fair election. “We know their tricks. They cannot rig the way they used to do because there is a card reader now.” Note to remember: There are 150,000 polling stations nationwide and, the Parliament amended the electoral law on 15 January allowing an estimated one million displaced people to cast their votes.

4. Opposition fears. Supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari of APC fear a new delay if the violence intensifies in the northeast. Also, just as reported by the BBC, opposition parties are worried that the military could abruptly seize power, ending democratic rule. Another reason for concern is the transparency of the elections. Alleged irregularities in voter registers and electoral malpractice by INEC officials, the latter admitted by the chairman Jega, led to supplementary polls in several local government areas. The presidential and parliamentary polls could still be pushed forward by a few weeks as the constitution of Nigeria states that the electoral process must be completed 30 days before 29 May, when power should be handed over. Note to remember: Nigerian elections results are regularly contested and cases have been known to go on for 2 or 3 years. On this occasion, all 14 presidential candidates have signed an agreement binding them to credible and non-violent elections.

5. Nigerian Economy. Africa’s leading economy is currently shrinking as a consequence of the falling price of oil (according to reports the state economy depends nearly in 70 percent of oil-producing). The Naira (currency) opened at a record low after Nigeria delayed its presidential election. “The currency traded well below a target of 160-176 to the dollar set following an 8 percent devaluation in November, despite regular central bank intervention. The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share index dropped 0.4 per cent, extending its decline this year to 14 per cent, the worst performance in the world after Ukraine.” Reported the Financial Times this week. Note to remember: The local Naira currency has fallen over 6 percent this year due to a decline in oil prices. PDP’s government also faces accusations of corruption, including billions of dollars of oil revenues that have been reported missing.

6. Boko Haram, violence and foreign policy. Nigerians fear the 2015 will be marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging as previous elections. Since campaigning began, both prominent contenders have reported violent attacks against their supporters. Foreign powers are closely observing how elections will be held. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Washington was “deeply disappointed” by Nigeria’s decision to delay the election. “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government doesn’t use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process,” Kerry said. Note to remember: The government’s inability to end the five-year-old insurgency waged by Boko Haram, failing to rein in corruption and guarantee security for all Nigerians, has led to a failure of leadership and consequent political crisis. The elections in March will be monitored globally.

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