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Large number of parties poses challenge in W/African elections – Envoy

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The United Nations (UN) says large number of political parties participating in elections pose great challenge in West Africa and the Sahel.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and Sahel, Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas stated this during his visit to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday in Abuja.

Chambas, who is also and Head of the UN Office for West Africa, said it is important to start looking into the number of political parties and their mode of registration within the sub-region.

The UN official said the large number is a challenge for electorate to make informed decisions during elections; especially in countries were many people are illiterates.

Chambas said that the UN would be happy to work with INEC in its plan to review the 2019 general elections to address the issue and some other challenges.

“We came here seeking to be part of that structure conversation moving forward. We will be particularly interested in a number of issues which INEC chairman has already identified.

“Issues such as political parties- number, mode of registration, internal democracy, accreditation of party agents, etc.

“The number of political parties in certain elections in West Africa Sahel sub-region has posed a challenge recently. Not only here in Nigeria. We need to look into the number of political parties, their mode of registration etc.

“Recently in Senegal this same challenge was faced and they are  now trying to address it.

“Next door in Benin Republic,  they were confronted with 249 registered political parties. They are also finding how to handle this.

“In the last election in Nigeria,  many of you will recall that there were 73 presidential candidates and we have more political parties.

“Many people have even referred to the ballot paper as table prof. on the account of its length and breath,”  the convoy said.

Chambas said that the UN would also be interested in engaging INEC on issue of inclusiveness, involving participation of women, youths, and persons living with disabilities in elective offices in particular, and electoral process in general.

Other areas of interest to UN according to him include issues of gender and youths representation.

Chambas, who also commended the peaceful inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, also stressed the need for a great country such as Nigeria to improve on gender representation in both chambers of the assembly.

He commended INEC for organising peaceful general elections that led to peaceful transition of government.

Chambas said that his visit was to see how to strengthen the institutional relationship between UN and INEC, not just during elections but off election season.

He said the UN is keen in finding out how it could  be helpful, supportive and be part of the process that would strengthen the capacity of INEC to better deliver in future elections.

“For us it is very clear to us, if we are talking on consolidation of democracy, stability, development of this country, they all start with being able to deliver peaceful, credible elections that have the confidence of the majority of Nigerians.

“It is known that a stable Nigeria democracy, prosperous Nigeria is good for West Africa and for all Africa.’’

In his remarks, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assured Nigerians that the commission would start its engagement with the 9th National Assembly on the reform of electoral legal framework early.

Yakubu said that there was need to focus attention on the electoral legal framework among several areas of reform.

He said that long before the 2019 general elections, INEC submitted detailed proposals for the amendment of electoral laws but it did not materialise.

“We had useful interaction with the 8th assembly. We also submitted extensive proposals for the improvement of the electoral legal framework for its consideration.

“We were assured by the leadership of the last assembly that work on the electoral legal framework will be concluded by December 2016.

“Unfortunately, the process dragged on for so long and became even more difficult to conclude as the general elections approached. I want to assure Nigerians that, as always, we will start early.’’

Yakubu expressed hope that INEC would conclude the ongoing review of the 2019 general elections in the next two months.

He said that the commission had commenced debriefings with all its field staff to learn from them the successes and challenges faced in the planning and implementation of the general elections.

Yakubu said  the commission would also hold extensive meetings with political parties, civil society, security agencies, the media as well as other stakeholders.

“Immediately thereafter, we shall engage with the leadership of the 9th assembly. There is so much work to do but little time ahead of us.

Yakubu commended the Secretary General on his goodwill message and support as well as his presence during the last general elections.

“We look forward to any suggestions that you may have for improving the electoral process in Nigeria as we prepare for future elections,’’ he said.

Edited by Angela Okisor

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