NO GOVERNMENT in Nigeria has ever come to power through credible elections. Even in colonial times stuffing ballots was the norm. Since independence few aspiring leaders have troubled much with the niceties of elections. Until 1999 military coups were more prevalent than ballots. Since then votes have been marred by violence and fraud.
The election in 2007 marked a particularly low point, when candidates reportedly garnered millions of fake votes in some 30,000 fake polling stations. A European Union observer mission noted that it “fell far short of basic international and regional standards for democratic elections”. The 2011 elections were an improvement but ballot-stuffing was still evident. One innovative wheeze was, as the EU observed rather drily, “the high number of under-age registered voters” who took part in the election.
This time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has wiped millions of duplicated voters from the electoral roll, issued voter cards and installed biometric machines to stop people casting more than one vote.
But where there’s a will—by hook, crook or chequebook—there’s a way to rig an election. Officials fret that party thugs may smash biometric machines. Using the police or army to influence the vote is also common. Last year the All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition, complained that the army had rounded up its officials and supporters ahead of a vote to elect the governor of Ekiti, a key southern state.
Politicians from the ruling party say that it played no part in instigating the arrests and that it won the election fairly.
Even if neither party tries to rig these elections, Nigerians may not see them as having been free and fair. With ten days to go before the vote, only 44m of 68.8m voter cards have been distributed. Opposition strongholds such as Lagos are among the worst affected, activists say.
Another problem is the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria’s north-east, an APC heartland.
The electoral commission has already cancelled polling in almost a quarter of the districts in the three north-eastern states most affected by Boko Haram, a jihadist group. Many of the 1.5m people displaced within Nigeria by the fighting will not be able to vote because by law they must cast their ballots in their home constituencies.
Little wonder that a recent Gallup poll found that only 13% of Nigerians trust the ballot (see chart).
Election fraud: By hook, crook or chequebook – The Economist
Compiled by Tkbesh
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