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Electoral bill: Buhari withholds assent, says adopting direct primary ‘violates spirit of democracy’

Author:
TheCable

President Muhammadu Buhari has, in a letter to the national assembly, withheld assent to the electoral act amendment bill.

The national assembly had, on November 19, transmitted the bill to the president for assent.

Among the amendments are recommendations on direct primaries for political parties and electronic transmission of election results.

The president, who kicked against the recommendation on adopting direct primaries, cited concerns on rights violation as well as cost as part of reasons for his refusal to assent to the bill.

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“The conduct of direct primaries across the 8,809 wards across the length and breadth of the country will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties as well as increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC who has to deploy monitors across these wards each time a party is to conduct direct primaries for the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative posts,” the letter reads.

“The addition of these costs with the already huge cost of conducting general elections will inevitable lead to huge financial burden on both the political parties, INEC and the economy in general at a time of dwindling revenues.

“The indirect consequences of the issues of high cost and monetisation are that it will raise financial crimes and constitute further strain on the economy. It will also stifle smaller parties without the enormous resources required to mobilise all party members for the primaries. This is not healthy for the sustenance of multi-party democracy in Nigeria.

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“In addition to increased costs identified above, conducting and monitoring primary elections across 8,809 wards will pose huge security challenges as the security agencies will also be overstretched, direct primaries will be open to participation from all and sundry and such large turn-out without effective security coordination will also engender intimidation and disruptions, thereby raising credibility issues for the outcomes of such elections.

“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy which is characterised by freedom of choices. Political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right to freedom of association.

“Several millions of Nigerians are not card carrying members of any political party. Thus, the emphasis should be on enabling qualified Nigerians to vote for the candidate of their choice during general elections as a means of participation in governance and furtherance of the concept of universal adult suffrage or universal franchise.”

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