The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on Monday said Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election fell short of Nigerian citizens’ legitimate and reasonable expectations.
The duo in a joint preliminary report highlighted failures of logistics, challenges with voter registration and voter card distribution, inadequate communication by INEC, lack of transparency in the publication of election data, and unchecked political violence before and during the elections as reasons for their conclusion.
The report noted that these shortfalls “overshadowed incremental administrative gains achieved in the pre-election period, and impeded a substantial number of citizens from participating in voting.” NDI-IRI also credited the ongoing cash crunch and fuel crisis with imposing “excessive burdens” on voters and election officials while marginalized groups, especially women, continued to face barriers to seeking and obtaining political office.
It added that the logistical and electoral insecurity challenges were foreseeable and avoidable but became a missed opportunity when INEC failed to address them. Logistical challenges led to the delay in commencement of voting in most parts of the country, it said. “Moreover, voters’ trust in the process has been considerably shaken by INEC’s lack of transparency about the cause and extent of election day challenges,” it added.
It commended Nigerians who in spite of these challenges “once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process, displayed extraordinary resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot, often waiting for several hours due to logistical shortcomings.” The NDI-IRI also lamented the violation of the electoral act on guidelines for setting up polling units.
As part of its report, it recommended that INEC engage in proactive, regular and transparent communications and outreach to the Nigerian public and relevant stakeholders related to electoral developments, electoral delays, cancellations, etc, and make such information immediately available on its website. INEC should consider redesigning the voting cubicle to guarantee ballot secrecy and enhance accessibility to PWDs. Also, lawmakers and INEC should work together to ensure contingency funding that can inoculate against economic and other unanticipated crises.
Other recommendations include for INEC to distribute voters more equitably among polling units and consider adjusting the number of poll workers assigned to each polling unit based on registered voters to reduce the time spent waiting in queues and completing ballot sorting and counting processes. INEC and civil society should expand civic and voter education efforts well in advance of election day to improve the application of procedures and citizens’ understanding of the electoral process.