The Independent National Electoral Commission says the growing number of political parties may pose challenges for the commission in the 2019 general elections.
The Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla, said this in Abuja on Monday at a retreat organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.
While delivering a keynote address at the event, which was titled, ‘The Dynamics of Managing Political Parties Professionally,’ Eyinla said so far, 68 political parties had been registered.
Eyinla, who represented INEC, said with over 100 political associations seeking registration, the number might increase before the elections which could cause logistical problems, including the production of ballot papers.
The INEC official said if 68 parties participated in the elections, it could also mean that a total of 68 party agents would be at each polling unit, which could cause the elections to be rowdy.
“Currently there are 68 registered political parties in Nigeria. As of today, there are more than100 associations that have applied to INEC to register as political parties. This raises a number of questions which we want this retreat to address,” he said.
Eyinla further stated that he did not know whether INEC would be able to monitor the congresses, conventions and primaries of all parties contesting over 1,000 elective positions each across the nation.
He added, “We are also going to be challenged if these 68 political parties and counting continue this way. We are just a commission. I cannot begin to imagine even as the technical adviser, how we will divide ourselves to monitor party conventions and primaries of 68 political parties across the length and breadth of this country.
“Already we have envisaged some of these challenges and we are coming up with strategies to deal with them in our election project plan.
“Ancillary to this is the fact that political party agents will also increase. I can imagine 68 political party agents in a polling unit. I think these are issues that we have to manage; but most importantly, how do we manage the ballot for 68 political parties?”
Eyinla said if any registered political party is mistakenly omitted from the ballot paper, it could lead to the total cancellation of the exercise.
The INEC official said, “I think perhaps one of the largest ballots that I have seen is that of Afghanistan where the ballot paper is nearly the size of a prayer mat.
“Given our level of literacy, I think that is going to be a major challenge and as we know, the question of exclusion is a major issue in the electoral process.
“The chairman was literally sleeping and waking with the ballot for Anambra State election to ensure that no party was excluded; to ensure that the names and logo of the parties were correct because any slip could nullify the election. So, I think there is a challenge with managing the ballot that will come with the increasing number of political parties.”
The INEC official called on the National Assembly to make necessary changes to the electoral legal framework before July, saying doing so less than six months to the elections would be in contravention of ECOWAS protocol on democracy.
In his address, however, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the multiplicity of political parties was good for democracy.
Saraki, who was represented by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, called on political parties to ensure that neglected groups, including women and persons living with disabilities, were integrated into party structures.
In his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said there was a need for parties to have ideologies as this would strengthen democracy and engender good governance.