Last week Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recommended delaying Nigeria’s presidential elections (currently scheduled for January 22nd). This week the proposal attracted some support from Nigeria’s lawmakers:
Changing the timetable means changing Nigeria’s constitution and this year’s electoral act. So the power to make those changes rests with the National Assembly. [INEC Chairman Attahiru] Jega thanked lawmakers for considering the commission’s request and assured them that it is not frivolous. “There is no point spending so much money going through a process, which in the end may turn out not to be satisfactory in terms of its credibility,” he said.
Parliamentary changes to the electoral act require the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan. Attorney General Mohammed Adoke says the Jonathan administration understands the need for delay. “The fundamental objective of this government is to have a free, fair and credible election at the end of the day,” said Adoke. “I have listened to the proposal and proposition of the INEC chairman. Our position as the government is that we will do everything possible to support and ensure that we have a free, fair and credible election.”
Jega wants a three-month postponement. Delaying the election would allow greater time for planning and preparation, but would reduce time for solving problems between the election and the inauguration (Jega has said the date of the inauguration, currently scheduled for May, should not change). After the 2007 elections a number of defeated candidates launched lawsuits, and the same might happen this time. The idea of a delay also makes some elites uneasy:
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Bayero Nafada is the co-chairman of the National Assembly’s Constitutional Review Committee. He said, “Nigerians are watching. We pray that at the end of our deliberation, we will be able to come out with an acceptable procedure and timetable for the conduct of the general election come 2011.”
Nafada said lawmakers continue to support the electoral commission, but want to make sure that the timetable presented this time is one that will work. “We pray that this time around, this will be the last request that will come from any quarters regarding this election because it will not continue that way. If there is any further [delay], God forbid, I think it will become a crisis,” he said.
If the National Assembly moves on this, President Jonathan will have a big decision to make – and one that Nigerians and others will scrutinize, given that Jonathan is himself a candidate. Attorney General Adoke’s statement reads to me as noncommital, but I wonder if the administration could deny the recommendations of both INEC and the legislators without igniting strong outcry.
[UPDATE]: Guess it’s as good as done now:
An official with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan’s letter to lawmakers asking for a delay in scheduled January elections.
Nick Dazan, INEC’s assistant director of public affairs, told VOA the election postponement will enable the electoral body to organize an “excellent” election.
In the letter, President Jonathan is quoted as saying, “I shall propose an amendment of the relevant laws … which would enable (INEC) to conduct general elections between now and the end of April 2011. It is my hope that the distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will consider and pass the amendment in your usual expeditious manner.”