As expected, the deregistration of 28 political parties last Thursday by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has elicited various reactions from politicians and citizens in the country.
While those affected described the action as undemocratic and capable of eroding the gains the country had made in representative governance, others commended the decision, saying it will go a long way in sanitising the conduct of elections in the polity.
INEC had while announcing the decision said it was exercising its powers in Section 78 (7)(11) of the Electoral Act 2010. The section empowers INEC to deregister political parties, “for failure to win presidential or governorship election or a seat in the National Assembly or the state House of Assembly.”
We agree that INEC is constitutionally charged with determining the number of parties to participate in an election but should the commission exercise its powers against the provisions and spirit of the constitution which guaranteed the rights of the citizens to associate?
If INEC had decided that the present 57 political parties in the country appear unwiedly and should be pruned for easy conduct of elections, should it then be implemented to contradict the freedom of association enshrined in the constitution.
We would have loved INEC to look at the greater picture of participatory democracy as sanctioned by the constitution. Section 40 of the country’s constitution provides Nigerians with the fundamental human rights and freedom to associate and this includes the freedom to form political parties with people of like minds.
It is our view that the provision of an electoral act cannot and should not be allowed to supercede the constitution of the land. The existence of these parties was a constitutional matter and should be left so. It is not mandatory that all the political parties must contest elections or field candidates. Some of these parties exist to mobilise the people for other causes other than elections.
What INEC has done by deregistering the 28 parties is to disregard the constitution.
We are of the opinion that rather than proscribe these parties, INEC should allow the electorate to determine their fate.
Rather than deproscribe these parties, we suggest that INEC advise them to merge to be able to articulate their interests. This is preferable to outright proscription.
We urge INEC to reconsider its decision in this respect. Nothing must be done to stifle the political space currently enjoyed by Nigerians.