‘INEC must shun incumbent interest to prevent election violence’
In just two months to the 2019 general election, an associate professor, politics of development, University of Port Harcourt, Fedlis Allen, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to distance itself from the influence of incumbent interest and focus on its operations.
He warned that any trace of affiliation might trigger election violence, saying this could be detrimental to democracy and credibility of democratisation processes in the country.
The don noted that the role of INEC, as an umpire in the election process, was to enforce the rights of the citizens to participate freely in the coming poll without violence through a transparent process from the standpoint of a truly independent body.
While speaking at the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation’s (CENCOD’s), annual democracy lecture, Allen stated that the integrity of election management bodies was critical for allaying fears of political parties and their candidates that they would not be rigged out in elections.
He, therefore, tasked relevant security agencies to be more professional and non-partisan in investigating, arresting and prosecuting those sponsoring killings ahead of the elections.
The don noted that without efforts in this direction, opposition politicians, with no access to formal security, would deepen their private arrangements for violence as a matter of waging war against their rivals.
Allen lamented that although in past, government security agencies applied force on many occasions, to rid the communities of activities of the perpetrators of violence but such efforts did not yield any positive results.
He stressed that instead of decreasing, killings have become more valued by the political class under a strict clandestine political relationship for the purpose of securing victory ahead of the 2019 elections.
The lecturer, therefore, beckoned on political parties to play a more bipartisan peace-building role and become less adversarial in matters that have to do with life and death.
He stated that partisanship around killings and other forms of violence that have degraded the political process should be seen as inimical to the democratization process.
Allen maintained that when an incumbent party uses the advantage of incumbency to deny the opposition access to justice, there was a likelihood of legal, optical or counter-violent response.
He added: “This binary view of action and reaction is tantamount to a dying democratic experiment.
It is even worse, that scarce monetary resource is a key determinant of who gets what and how from elections.
Those who invest money in the election business, by all means, would want to win. This suggests a sense of desperation that influences the risk of violence in the electoral process.
“When an opposition politician wrongly or rightly perceives an incumbent to be desperate to keep power, response is likely to be violent. Both the cost and fear of losing elections pose a risk of violent response. What it means is that, the electoral process becomes unduly pressured towards violence with any available violent group becoming prey in the hands of politicians.
“The trend, which suggest a love affair between some politicians and armed groups, implies class oppression of the downtrodden who need to wake up from a seeming slumber and break free. Politicians, who support activities of cult groups to rig elections, intimidate or kill opponents, should be resisted and rejected by political parties irrespective of level of influence.
“Parties can include conflict management and peace building procedures in their constitutions in a more meaningful way that takes as crucial a short- and long-term interest in nonviolence and alternative conflict resolution.
“Local and international monitoring and observer groups should be given more access or encouraged to play a peace-building role.
This is crucial. The current violent forms of political relationship require a peace or non-violent approach, which those coming from the sidelines of non-partisanship can help to deliver.
“Efforts at making election processes more peace-building, confidence- building, and conflict sensitive is critical.
This would mean avoiding unnecessary restrictions to freedom that can be interpreted as rigging, for which violent counter-measures may ensue.
In addition, improved local and international monitoring and observer groups will reduce the risk of impunity on the part of desperate politicians.
“The integrity of election management bodies is critical for allaying fears of political parties and their candidates that they will not be rigged out in elections.
INEC, an umpire in the election process, must be seen to be enforcing the rights of citizens to participate freely without violence through a transparent process from the standpoint of a truly independent body, where the influence of incumbent interest is distances away from its operations.
This is confident building and will reduce the risk of choice of violence in the election process.”