How to reduce the incidence of inconclusive elections, by Aminu Ali

Aminu Ali
Aminu Ali

The incidence of inconclusive election is increasingly becoming disturbing. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared the gubernatorial elections of five out of the 29 states held last Saturday inconclusive. Last year, the gubernatorial election of Osun State was also declared inconclusive. In deciding whether an election is conclusive or inconclusive, INEC compares the margin of lead between the two major contenders with the number of registered voters in the polling units where elections were cancelled or not held. Where the former is less than the latter, the election is declared inconclusive, and a supplementary election is conducted before a winner is returned.

This principle of margin of lead is stipulated in the INEC’s Manual for Election Officials, not the Electoral Act or the Constitution. I am not opposed to this principle, but I have a reservation on INEC’s method of determining the conclusiveness of elections. Its method is, in my humble opinion, stringent and needs to be amended in order to reduce the incidence of inconclusive elections. I suggest that the appropriate thing to do is to compare the margin of lead with the expected votes in the areas where elections were cancelled or not held. The question is how do we ascertain the expected votes? Below is the recommended method:

(1). Find the number of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVCs) collected (or number of registered voters if number of PVCs collected is not available) in each polling unit where election was cancelled or not held due to malfunction of the Smart Card Reader, non-delivery of election materials, voters’ suppression (as a result of ballot box snatching, violence, etc.). Polling units where elections were cancelled due to overvoting shouldn’t be considered since over voting is electoral malpractice. This will serve as a punishment and may go a long way to reduce this form of electoral malpractice.

(2). Determine the percentage of voters’ turnout in the ward/registration area where the affected polling unit is located.

(3). Apply the percentage to the number of PVCs collected/number of registered voters in the polling unit where an election was cancelled or not held to get the expected votes in that polling unit. Therefore, expected votes mean the number of votes that would have been cast if the election had been conducted in that polling unit.

(4) The Registration Area Collation Officers (RACOs) should compute the expected votes of all the affected polling units in their Registration Areas (RAs) and forward it to the Local Government Council Collation Officer.

(5) The Local Government Council Collation Officer should collate the results (expected votes) received from RACOs in his area and forward it to the next level of collation. This process continues up to the final level of collation.

(6) Sum the result obtained in (5) to get total expected votes.

(7) Compare the margin of lead with the result obtained in (6). If the former exceeds the latter, the election should be declared conclusive. Where it’s less than, the election should be declared inconclusive.

In using this method, all that INEC needs to do in the future elections is to amend form EC 40G to accommodate the computation of expected votes. Adjusting INEC’s method of determining the conclusiveness of election is important in order to reduce the prevalence of inconclusive election. It is a known fact that supplementary elections are always characterized by violence, unnecessary militarization of the process, intimidation of voters, voter suppression, manipulation of results, excessive vote buying, among other forms of irregularities. Also worrisomely, taxpayers’ resources are wasted on these supplementary elections.

I hope this piece will generate conversations among stakeholders (INEC, local and international observers, civil society organizations, political parties, media, etc.) about the need to revisit the INEC’s method of ascertaining the conclusiveness of election.

Aminu Ali wrote from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via his email: aminuali@yahoo.com