4 ways to prevent violence in 2023 elections – Crisis Group
The largest and most youthful electorate in Nigerian history will head to the polls on 25 February and 11 March to choose the political leaders for the next four years, research by the International Crisis Group (ICG) showed.
ICG, an independent organisation focused on shaping policies to promote a peaceful world, added that the candidates (presidential, parliamentary, and state gubernatorial) who win will be taking the reins of a country pulled in several different directions by security threats, a situation it has not seen since going through a civil war in 1970.
“Should electoral violence scar the country, deepening its divisions, it will be even more difficult to govern,” according to the research. “Smooth and safe elections are thus of crucial importance, not only for advancing Nigerian democracy but for allowing the country to reassert itself as a leader in West African, continental and global affairs.”
Furthermore, the study titled ‘Mitigating Risks of Violence in Nigeria’s 2023 Elections’, advised that the Nigerian government, political parties and civil society groups need to take steps to improve election security, defuse tensions and mitigate the risks of violence.
Despite the severe insecurity nationwide, there has been an increase in election violence, including attacks on political opponents and damage to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) buildings; which could worsen during and after the elections.
To counter the further spread of election violence, ICG stated that the first priority is to push back armed groups, especially in the North West and the South East. Security forces should also provide better protection for INEC offices and election materials.
Issues based campaign
Aside from security concerns, the ICG noted in the research that there is a chance, albeit a slight one, that no presidential contender receives the 25 percent of votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states required to avoid a run-off, and that a second-round voting might carry extra risks.
“Unlike past elections, which were largely two-horse races, the 2023 presidential election features three front-runners: Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party,” according to the research.
“Having signed a pledge to campaign peacefully in September 2022, they should enter another accord, brokered by the National Peace Committee, agreeing to either accept the outcome or challenge any results they feel are not credible in the courts rather than on the streets. INEC and security agencies must also work to ensure election credibility, particularly by minimising technical defects and limiting vote buying.”
As a solution, the study urged candidates and their spokespersons to refrain from using provocative language and instead focused their campaigns on serious concerns.
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Immediate fixes for fuel and cash shortages
ICG recommended that the Federal Government move quickly to address the fuel shortages and cash constraints.
“If not resolved before the polls, fuel shortages could hamper INEC operations and disenfranchise the many voters who must travel to voting places,” the ICG warned. “The scarcity of currency has already caused tremendous hardship, which could render an even greater number of voters vulnerable to vote buying and heighten election tensions.”
Presence of international election observers
As seen in previous elections, international observer missions could aid in determining the credibility of the elections, which is critical in managing post-election tensions. Donors should also provide additional financial, technical, and training assistance to Nigerian civil society organisations striving to prevent electoral violence, particularly the National Peace Committee.
Foreign partners should follow the lead of the US, which recently established a travel ban on any political sabotage backer. The policy of putting diplomatic sanctions on any Nigerian politician who incites violence or otherwise jeopardises the election appeared to aid in the promotion of peaceful elections in 2015 and 2019.
Foreign partners should follow the lead of the US, which recently announced a travel ban on anyone found guilty of political mischief.
“The policy of imposing diplomatic sanctions on any Nigerian politician who incites violence or otherwise compromises the vote seemed to help promote peaceful polls in 2015 and 2019,” the ICG noted.
ICG conducted the research to increase awareness of security threats and encourage efforts to mitigate the risks of violence before, during and after the 2023 polls.