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EXPLAINER: What does the law say about death of a candidate before election?

EXPLAINER: What does the law say about death of a candidate before election?
January 25
20:38 2023

With four weeks to the general election, new developments have continued to unfold, raising concerns about how they may affect the polls.

On Wednesday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) announced the death of Uche Ikonne, its governorship candidate in Abia.

Hours after his death, there have been speculations about who replaces him as the party’s governorship candidate.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

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Section 33 of the Electoral Act states that a political party can only substitute a nominated candidate if the candidate withdraws from the race or dies.

In this case, the law says the political party should conduct a fresh primary within 14 days in order to field a new candidate.

Section 33 of the Act reads: “A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted under section 29 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate:

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“Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.”

Section 34(1) of the Act also makes further provisions on the death of a candidate.

“If after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the Commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days,” the section reads.

Going by subsection 2 of the aforementioned Act, the list of voters to be used “shall be the official voters’ register which was to be used if the election had not been postponed”.

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WHAT IF A CANDIDATE DIES DURING ELECTION?

According to the law, if a candidate dies after the election has commenced and the final result is yet to be announced, the poll would be suspended for 21 days to enable the affected political party produce a new candidate within 14 days.

But this does not apply to the presidential, governorship, or federal capital territory (FCT) area council elections.

The law says if a candidate in the presidential, governorship or FCT area council elections dies, the running mate will continue with the poll.

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Section 34(3) of the Act reads: “If after the commencement of polls and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a candidate dies – (a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period, not more than 21 days; and

“(b) in the case of election into a legislative house, the election shall start afresh and the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit the name of a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate: Provided that in the case of presidential or gubernatorial or Federal Capital Territory Area Council election, the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.”

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Going by the provision of the law, the PDP would have to conduct fresh primary in Abia to produce a new governorship candidate.

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