By Stanley Nwanosike of NAN
(NANFEATURES) It is no longer news that some states’ electoral bodies are exploring the possibility of having to organise their local government elections on weekdays – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – evolving and leaving the age-long tradition introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in scheduling weekends, mostly Saturday, as election day and extending to Sunday if an election has a spill-over.
The Katsina State Independent Electoral Commission (KASIEC) had announced about a month ago the date for the long-awaited local government elections in the state to be held on Monday, April 11, 2022. In the same vein, Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) had earlier fixed Wednesday, Feb. 23, for elections into 260 ward councillorship and 17 chairmanship positions within the state.
Shading professional insight to this development, a National Commissioner in INEC, Mr Festus Okoye, said that the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, does not make any day of the week sacrosanct for holding election. Okoye, who is INEC’s National Commissioner in-charge of Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), noted that INEC subscribed to using Saturdays as days for elections to minimise disruption of social and economic life of Nigerians.
“There is no constitutional or legal provision that mandates that elections must be held on a Saturday. It is just conventional. Possibly, it is done to prevent large-scale disruption of social and economic life. Some countries hold elections on working days and people simply vote and return to their work and businesses. We must make our elections very civil,” the INEC national commissioner, who had supervised national elections, said.
Collaborating, the INEC Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Emeka Ononamadu, said that naturally there is nothing wrong with holding elections on weekdays. Ononamadu noted that Saturdays became somehow preferable to ensure less distraction because elections are still manually done, adding that there would always be the need to move men and materials from one location to another and “if every other activities are going on simultaneously, there may be obstruction like traffic etc.”
According to Ononamadu, “If elections are held on weekdays, it won’t free some security men who will be engaged in other official functions like in ministries, banks, road traffic etc. Again, with our kind of politics and low citizens participation in elections, if elections are held on weekdays, aggrieved citizens will prefer their work to civic duty. But if it is done on Saturdays, they may be motivated to vote out of idleness which can equally spring up patriotism if also they angrily decide to vote according to their consciences.”
“If elections are done on weekends, it reduces the economic loss that the nation would have made against holding it on weekdays. On weekends, banks, most government offices don’t open for business. Therefore, the tendency that running elections on weekdays will cause disenfranchisement is high. There are so many advantages to holding elections on weekends at present.
“However, there are few disadvantages. First, most elections that are held on Saturdays get concluded on Sundays and then affect the religious belief of some people. If the election must be concluded on Sundays, the level of participation becomes lower than weekdays except now that INEC has brought in a lot of innovations that enables voting to end on record time except in areas where there are disruptions.
“By the time INEC completes moving elections from manual to high percentage of electronic, the conversation of holding elections on weekdays can start. If the attitude on participation is higher and thuggery which enables the need for more security is lower, the conversation on weekdays elections can gather steam. For now and in my opinion, I prefer elections on weekends but my preference does not make elections on weekdays inappropriate or illegal,” the REC noted.
However, on the contrary, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) says that fixing elections on weekdays is an anomaly that needs to be corrected urgently. The Chairman of IPAC in Enugu State, Chief Edwin Alor, said such moves if allowed to stand would clearly disfranchise some segments of the electorate.
According to Alor, “this move will disfranchise thousands of civil servants, traders and artisans who may wish to cast their votes and join in electing their favourite candidates. We are worried that weekdays elections will surely and negatively affect electorates that would want to vote on the election as well as other segments of the electorate in the state as well”.
“We are not in support and IPAC sees it as an aberration that needs to be corrected for the benefit of all. And ensure there is no apathy to the election itself due to wrong scheduling or timing. I will write officially on the issue. IPAC will also meet critical stakeholders on the issue, including ENSIEC,” the IPAC chairman said.
In a submission, a civil society organization (CSO) noted that having elections on weekdays is becoming the norm in most democratic countries the world over. The Executive Director of Leadership and Entrepreneurship Advocacy (LEAD) Network Africa, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa, noted that claims of civil servants or traders getting disfranchised is unrealistic as they can vote and return to their offices or businesses, where there is no public holiday declared.
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Okenwa, however, noted that the local government election is done at the neighbourhood or ward level and as such does not require much movement and strain. He noted that all civil servants, traders and artisans needed to do, even in a worst case scenario, is to prepare early, go to polling units, cast their votes and head to office or businesses. Their employer (government) and customers clearly understand there would be a civic exercise – ballot casting – ongoing.
“Perhaps, the electoral body saw the need to choose any other day beyond weekends this time. I think it is entirely not out of place. However, fixing election dates on a weekday should be done with full engagement and consent of the electoral stakeholders – political parties, civil societies, media, security agencies and so on. This is to ensure that it does not seem that there is a design to disenfranchise any segment of the electorate.
“I believe that those that sincerely want to vote and have their voters’ cards can be found across board of all segments within the electorate. People going to work or to other places of concern should prepare early, cast their votes and go about their respective pursuits of the day. The truth of the matter is that some persons (whether civil servants or traders) might not be eligible to vote due to not having voters’ card in the first place,” the executive director said.
This evolving development, when done with wide consultation of electoral stakeholders, water-tight electoral security and application of technology, to less manual and human interference in the electoral system, would surely move the country’s democracy to greater heights.
It would also change the present orientation of some political party candidates, their supporters and some electorate, looking at elections as a psychological and physical war with perceived opponents. The days of many electorate keeping eagle eye watch over a ballot box, even after casting their votes in polling booths, as if the ballot box would disappear mysteriously would soon end in the country. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
The post Import of weekdays elections on electoral evolution in Nigeria first appeared on News Agency of Nigeria.
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