The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro-democracy think-tank, has highlighted factors that undermined the 2023 general elections.
In its official gazette on Monday, the non-governmental organisation x-rayed the events that characterised the 25 February and 18 March elections that produced key Nigerian leaders.
CDD’s report revealed that the lack of public trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pushed a section of Nigerians to dispute the outcome of the presidential elections and question the integrity of the institution.
The poor functionality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) during the presidential election spurred a deficit of trust in the transparency tendencies of the INEC, it said.
However, the gross violence and intimidation that trailed the governorship and state assembly elections undermined the eventual improvement in logistics by INEC, according to the CDD report. It also noted how vote-buying and trading characterised the governorship elections generally across zones.
“In the first six hours of polls being open on 18 March CDD’s war room team came across a flurry of voter intimidation videos, particularly from Lagos state where it was ensconced in rhetoric about belonging and ethnic identity, an illustration of the ways that voter intimidation took place both online, as well as offline,” the report read in parts.
“Victims of this violence were first and foremost voters, some of whom were denied the right to exercise their franchise as a result of polling units cancelling results or having their ballot boxes snatched.”
READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW:
CDD: How decreased trust in INEC, violence and vote buying blighted 2023 polls
INEC performance undermined by electoral violence
Violence marred process in 10.8% of observed polling units
How political actors circulate suppression videos online to deter voting
Voting patterns indicate scrutiny of candidates, less focus on parties
Post-election litigations likely, leading to judicially declared poll winners
With the results of March 18, 2023 governorship and houses of assembly elections already trickling in from across the country, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has already started an inquest to help stakeholders understand how the process played out to produce the emerging outcomes. The pro-democracy think tank, which deployed observers to keep a close watch on the process has provided insights deduced from the treasure trove of data it collected during the polls. Briefing journalists and election stakeholders during the post-election press conference, Chair of the CDD EAC, Professor Adele Jinadu and Director, Idayat Hassan expressed concerns that the improved conduct of the governorship and houses of assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been undermined by the combination of violence, vote buying, online and offline intimidation of voters, disinformation and decreased citizens trust in INEC.
The group stressed that despite INECs improved performance during these elections, the perceived questionable credibility of the conduct of presidential and National Assembly polls in the minds of many voters has shaped how Nigerians viewed the 18 March process and their engagement in it. According to the group, diminished trust in INEC as an institution will shape wider perceptions when it comes to the acceptance of the results returned, particularly in races where a narrow margin of victory is recorded or where presidential results are not replicated at the sub-national level.
CDD in the post-election analysis also put the spotlight on the mindboggling violence, which affected the elections. The think tank reported that its data showed violence occurred in 10.8 percent of polling units observed. It further pointed out that voter suppression, voter intimidation and the destruction or theft of election materials predominantly by political party agents and politically aligned thugs was recorded across all six geopolitical zones. It said: “10.8% of observed polling units recorded violence and/or fighting this was most pronounced in the northwest (19.9%) and south-south (11.6%) geopolitical zones with Bayelsa and Zamfara the two states with the most incidents recorded by our observers.”
CDD similarly drew attention to the threat or actual unleashing of violence, which manifested in the use of online and offline tactics to scare off or drive away voters from the polls. The group revealed that political actors deployed violence, not only offline but also online through the use of identity to drive misinformation and disinformation on social media. The analysis went on to state that in some polling units, the violence was unleased to intimidate, suppress and destroy election materials. These disruptive activities, the group said caused a multiplier effect, which further led to the reduction of voters’ appetite to cast their ballots.
“In the first six hours of polls being open on 18 March CDD’s war room team came across a flurry of voter intimidation videos, particularly from Lagos state where it was ensconced in rhetoric about belonging and ethnic identity, an illustration of the ways that voter intimidation took place both online, as well as offline.
On the specific actors responsible for the violence, which affected the elections, CDD listed them as non-state actors, political thugs and political party agents. It said the objective of these groups was to disrupt election processes with violence. “Victims of this violence were first and foremost voters, some of whom were denied the right to exercise their franchise as a result of polling units cancelling results or having their ballot boxes snatched.
“Even though some efforts were made, where possible, to hold polls the following day for example. But there were also attacks directed at, or threats made toward, ad-hoc INEC staff with one shot in Cross River and more than ten kidnapped after voting in Imo state; journalists reporting on the election in Lagos, Rivers and Ogun, domestic election observers and other party agents. Violence also targeted BVAS in order to disrupt the process and ensure the cancellation of results, with notable incidents taking place in Warri South West LGA, Delta and Ezza North LGA, Ebonyi state.” On the significance of the kind of voting witnessed during the elections, CDD said the results would provide momentum to agitators for more party platforms alternatives to the dominant APC and PDP. For the think tank, the success of candidates who have left the party and were able to gain political influence could encourage more splintering and eventual balkanization of the major parties.
READ ALSO: CDD hails INEC’s logistics improvement for governorship, assembly polls
Its words: “the performance of elected governors and officials during the coming term will play a part in maintaining this momentum. Among other issues, including voter turnout and vote buying, CDD also weighed in on implications of the anomalies witnessed during the polls for Nigeria’s democracy and development. The think tank concluded that will the scale of violence as seen in the elections, a wave of post-election litigations was likely. This situation it warned could result in courts determining the legality of the election mandates secured. “This has the added effect of seeing courts have a role in determining “elected” officials, further undermining voters’ sense that their vote is valued and has an impact on the outcome of an election process.”
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