Organising The 2007 Election

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Organising The 2007 Election
 

By

 

Adele Jinadu

 

 

culled from GUARDIAN, March 27, 2005

 

 

My point of departure is the observation that, under liberal democratic theory, the indeterminacy of elections, in the sense of providing opportunity for yesterday's losers to become today's winners, and yesterday's winners to become today's losers, presupposes, indeed demands and is, to a large extent, a function of an impartial and efficient administration of elections. To say this is in effect to hypothesise that the critical problem of electoral administration in our country is to ensure the indeterminacy of elections.

 

It is for this reason that it is always important to turn our searchlight on electoral administration, in its various dimensions, in our country. However, that searchlight must not be a limited one. It must go beyond such critical and conditioning institutional, basically process questions, for example about the powers and functions of electoral bodies and about electoral laws and electoral systems to include the no less and perhaps more important conditioning structural questions relating to the resolution of the social question of democratic development in our country.

 

As I have pointed out elsewhere, "The problem of electoral administration, and by implication, of the liberal democratic project in Africa, cannot therefore be dissociated from the possibilities for resolving the fundamental problem of underdevelopment and the prospects for structural transformation of Africa economies.
If the social question is to be viewed in the medium - to longer - term perspectives, there are, however, short-term consideration, relating to some more immediately pressing institutional/process issues, which must be addressed as we prepare for 2007. In this respect, and with due acknowledgement of the ponderous odds INEC had to contend with as 2003 approached, I would like to suggest that it would not be too early now for INEC to begin preparation for 2007 and to issue a preliminary programme of activities leading up to 2007 and take definite decisions about some of the logistic and related organisational matters concerning the administration of the 2007 general elections.

 

Part of the problem with INEC as 2003 approached was that it was not proactive enough and, for that reason, was enmeshed in a web of avoidable tardy preparations and needless diversions, which gave those who would subvert the electoral process ample opportunity to exploit the situation. INEC should try to avoid this and have the electoral process, as we approach 2007, firmly under its control.

 

Let me identify, without elaboration but the more to provoke discussion, some of such institution/process issues: voter education; voter registration; the recruitment and training of election officials; information about and access of voting centres, and the number of such centres to ensure access by all voters; the voting period and the secrecy of voting; the nature of the ballot box and the ballot itself; the mode of appointment, composition and tenure of the electoral body; and the revision and vigorous enforcement of the electoral laws to make for more credible and effective administration of elections, making it more difficult for those who would rather subvert the electoral process to do so, and especially with respect to electioneering guidelines, election finance and election tribunals.

 

Let me now make passing reference to four critical issues that have tended to be neglected in discussing the administration of elections in this country. The first is the place of party primaries in the broader canvass of electoral administration as the anchor of democratic consolidation in our country. I was privy to the discussion and decision leading to the institutionalisation of party primaries as an integral aspect of the fledgling party system in 1990/1991; and it was an innovation which the late Shehu Musa Yar'Adua welcomed as presaging a promising future for electoral politics in the country.

 

How painful it is that the vision that informed its introduction seemed to have been lost and what we have experienced about party primaries in recent years is nothing but a charade, a departure from the democratic impulses that informed its introduction. Here, as in many other aspects of its supervisory powers, the electoral body has not been as forceful, firm and proactive as it should have been, in nudging the parties to conduct credible primaries and in line with their party constitutions. In a sense, there is a connection between party primaries and electoral administration: if parties allow their party primary process to be violated at will, and conducted without regard to their party constitutions, there is a sense in which they will approach the conduct of national elections with the same psychological orientation, if they exhibit lack of discipline in conducting their party primaries, they will, perhaps, be more disposed to exhibiting even more indiscipline in inter-party competitive elections.

 

Given the huge logistical and heavy financial outlays necessary for electoral administration, arising from the size and diverse topography of our country, the second is our failure to pay much attention to the necessarily inter-agency and collaborative nature of electoral administration in the country. As we approach 2007, we must advert our minds to what needs to be done to secure this collaborative process from abuse through the use of the power of incumbency to subvert it. In short, the inter-agency nature of electoral administration, with all its implications for the autonomy of the electoral body, if not artfully managed, could as well be the Achilles' heels of electoral administration in the country, creating fissures which could be exploited by those who would like to subvert the electoral process. Related to this is the need for INEC to create and train a pool of election officials from which it can draw to officiate during elections.

 

My third observation is about the role of internal election monitors. INEC should encourage the creation of a consortium of internal election monitors, with which it should establish liaison and partnership on a formal basis, taking them into confidence, in securing the sanctity of the electoral process. Fourthly, the role of research in the administration of elections need to be underscored. We need to adopt a knowledge-based approach, utilising applied social science to the understanding and solution of problems of election administration in the country, and to the study of elections and electoral behaviour in the country.

 

Professor Jinadu is with the Centre for Advanced Social Science in Port Harcourt, Rivers State

 

 

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