The recent report that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will soon begin the deregistration of political parties that did not meet the requirements of 1999 Constitution with regards to votes scored during the last general election is a welcome development.
The move, according to the electoral umpire, is in conformity with the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (Fourth Alteration, No. 9) Act, 2017 enacted on May 4, 2017 which amended Section 225 of the Constitution.
Also, Section 78(7) of the 2011 Electoral Act provides that a political party can be deregistered for the following reasons: “breach of any of the requirements for registration; and for failure to win presidential or governorship election or a seat in the national or state assembly election.” The move by INEC has come at the right time considering the fact that the number of political parties in the country now is so unwieldy.
It is even becoming cumbersome for the electoral umpire to have the names and logos of 91 political parties on the ballot paper. Also, most electorate did not find it easy locating their preferred party on the ballot during the 2019 general election. While we note that the right to form or belong to a political party is a fundamental human right enshrined in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), at the same time, we reiterate that this section of the constitution should not be used to clog the system with unserious political parties.
No doubt, multi-party democracy has come to stay in the country. Nevertheless, the rising number of political parties seeking for elections at every election cycle has become a source of concern to many Nigerians. Apart from clogging and making the political space unwieldy, it has largely contributed to the rise in electoral malpractices. The proliferation of political parties has invariably created some avoidable problems for the INEC and the voters.
It has even made it possible for unserious groups with sinister motives to float political parties and choke the electoral system. The growing number of parties makes it expedient for the commission to deregister weak and unserious political parties. During the last general election, for instance, it was cumbersome for INEC to print error-free ballot papers. Such slips led to litigations which the commission is still handling today. Despite voter education, there were reports of errors of omission, indecipherable letters, identical party acronyms and palpable confusion during the 2019 election.
We, therefore, commend this initiative and urge the commission to do more to cleanse the electoral system of lapses witnessed during the last general election. It will be recalled that the political Bureau of 1986 which was set up by General Ibrahim Babangida administration adopted a two-party system for the country, which led to the formation of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The June 12, 1993 presidential election which was conducted on the two-party system was widely acclaimed as the freest and fairest election in Nigerian history. Unfortunately, the result of that election was annulled. At the beginning of the 4th Republic, only three political parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Peoples Party (APP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD) were registered to contest the 1999 election. The election was devoid of the deficiencies observed in recent elections. It did not also record so many litigations that are rampant in subsequent polls.
The mushrooming of political parties has increased our electoral woes. The United States from where we borrowed the presidential system of government has two major political parties and minor ones. Many countries in Europe have a similar model. We can emulate them. Having 91 political parties fielding candidates in one election is not tidy.