From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Election violence has undermined the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 2023 general elections, according to the assessment of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
It further observed that voter suppression, voter intimidation and the destruction or theft of election materials predominantly by political party agents and politically aligned thugs were recorded across the six geopolitical zones.
The Chair of CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof Adele Jinadu and Director, Idayat Hassan, at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, said their data showed that violence occurred in 10.8 per cent of all polling units, which led to the reduction of votersâ appetite to cast their ballots.
âThe improved conduct of the governorship and houses of assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been undermined by the combination of violence, vote buying, online and offline intimidation of voters, disinformation and decreased citizensâ trust in INEC.
â10.8% of observed polling units recorded violence and/or fighting this was most pronounced in the northwest (19.9%) and south-south (11.6%) geopolitical zones with Bayelsa and Zamfara the two states with the most incidents recorded by our observers.
âIn the first six hours of polls being open on 18 March CDDâs war room team came across a flurry of voter intimidation videos, particularly from Lagos state where it was ensconced in rhetoric about belonging and ethnic identity, an illustration of the ways that voter intimidation took place both online, as well as offline,â Prof Jinadu said.
On the specific actors responsible for the violence, which affected the elections, Hassan listed them as non-state actors, political thugs and political party agents.
She said the objective of these groups was to disrupt election processes with violence.
âVictims of this violence were first and foremost voters, some of whom were denied the right to exercise their franchise as a result of polling units cancelling results or having their ballot boxes snatched.
âEven though some efforts were made, where possible, to hold polls the following day for example.
âBut there were also attacks directed at or threats made toward, ad-hoc INEC staff with one shot in Cross River and more than ten kidnapped after voting in Imo state; journalists reporting on the election in Lagos, Rivers and Ogun, domestic election observers and other party agents.
âViolence also targeted BVAS in order to disrupt the process and ensure the cancellation of results, with notable incidents taking place in Warri South West LGA, Delta and Ezza North LGA, Ebonyi state,â she said.
According to her, the success of candidates who have left the party and were able to gain political influence could encourage more splintering and eventual balkanization of the major parties.
âThe performance of elected governors and officials during the coming term will play a part in maintaining this momentum.
âThis has the added effect of seeing courts have a role in determining âelectedâ officials, further undermining votersâ sense that their vote is valued and has an impact on the outcome of an election process,â she said.
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