Electoral Reform in Nigeria Problems and Prospects

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Since the electoral meltdown in the 1983 General elections, each Election Day has raised new alarms that the foundation of our democracy — the right to vote in free and fair elections — remains beset with varied problems. Years after serious problems were exposed to the public, it has become increasingly apparent that our elections system is technologically, legally, and administratively inadequate and unfair. Over the last three years, INEC, Nigerian politicians, civil society organizations, and the international community have all sought to learn from 1999 and 2003 elections by launching projects that aim to improve the Nigerian electoral process (Carl Le Van, 2006).

The management of electoral system in Nigeria has had the following problems: * There have been a number of alterations of the register aimed at cleaning up the lists, but without any audit trail to show what changes were made, and under what authority. * Statistical analysis of the register has shown wide discrepancies between the demographic makeup of registered voters as compared to the general population reflected in the Central Statistical Organization. * It is possible for voters to choose between three possible voting domiciles, without any documentary evidence required to substantiate eligibility in the chosen domicile. * The election law is currently being rewritten, with wide-ranging implications in requirements for the voter registration process. * The percentage of voters reflected on the voters’ list is very low, representing just over 50% of the eligible electorate.

Now, on the INEC, several significant developments are shaping the political environment and threatened political competition. These issues have received less attention because they seem isolated, they do not appear to be within INEC’s responsibilities, or they are on the ethical margins of democratization assistance. Moreso, the INEC’s guidelines must...
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