The Special Representatives of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, on Thursday expressed concern over the number of political parties in Nigeria and some countries in the West African sub-region.
The UN representative described it as a serious challenge which “distracts from the quality of the process.”
He also promised to partake in the review of the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Chambas said this during a courtesy call on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in Abuja.
During the visit, the INEC chairman blamed the leadership of the 8th National Assembly for the controversy which characterised President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the 2018 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law.
The UN representative told his host that the number of political parties in Nigeria and the West African sub-region was “a serious challenge as it hinders the electorate from taking informed decisions.”
Recall that about 73 political parties fielded presidential candidates during the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
Chambas said, “So, we came here seeking to be part of that conversation going forward and we will particularly be interested in a number of issues, such as the number of political parties, mode of registration, internal democracy and accreditation of party agents which the chairman of INEC himself has already identified.
“The number of political parties in certain elections in our West Africa and Sahel sub-region has posed a challenge recently and it is not only here in Nigeria that we need to look at the issue of number of political parties and their mode of registration.
“Recently in Senegal, this same challenge was faced; they have found their manner of dealing with it. Next door in the Republic of Benin, when they were confronted with as many as 249 registered political parties, they have also tried to find their way to handle this issue.
“In the last elections in Nigeria, many of you will recall that there were 73 presidential candidates. I am not talking about registered political parties but presidential candidates. With the usual Nigerian people, some people even referred to the ballot paper as tablecloth on account of its length and breadth.
“Of course, that also has its own challenges and for countries in our sub-region, presenting them with such long list of candidates sometimes distracts them from the quality of the process and informed decisions by the electorate.
“So, these are legitimate issues that we want to be part of this conversation that has been initiated by the INEC chairman.
“The UN wants to be part of that preparation. We want to always see in what way we can be useful. How can we support, how can we facilitate, how can we be part of the process which strengthen capacity of INEC to better deliver in future elections?”
While blaming the 8th National Assembly, Yakubu said having taken cognisance of the need for electoral reforms ahead of the last general elections, INEC submitted detailed proposals for the amendment to the nation’s electoral laws to the National Assembly.
The PUNCH reported that Buhari had declined his assent to the bill because it was too close to the 2019 general elections.
According to Yakubu, the process for the amendment to the Electoral Act was delayed by the lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Yakubu said, “We look forward to any suggestions that you may have for improving the electoral process in Nigeria as we prepare for future elections. In particular, we need to focus attention on the electoral legal framework among several areas of reform.” The INEC chairman also informed the delegation that the commission had started its review of the 2019 general elections, adding that all stakeholders in the political process would be involved.