Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Free and Fair Election.
2. Meaning Of Electoral Malpractice
3. Forms Of Electoral Malpractices.
4. Causes Of Electoral Malpractices
5. Consequences Of Electoral Malpractices.
6. Preventing Electoral Malpractices.
Free And Fair Election
A free and fair election is an election conducted in accordance with the provisions of electoral law. This implies that the election is:
i. Based on one man one vote.
ii. Free from all forms of manipulations or malpractices.
iii. Free from intimidation and harrassment of voters.
iv. Free from monetary inducements to influence voters behaviour.
v. One whose outcome is the will of the people expressed through their votes.
Related to this is that the process leadimg to the election, such as political party congress to select delegates, part primaries to select candidates for the election, are free and fair also.
What Then Constitutes Electoral Malpractice
i. Electoral Malpractice is any unlawful act that is aimed at manipulating the conduct and the outcome of an election.
ii. It is any unlawful activity to change or influence the behaviour of the electorate or the conduct of the electoral officials in an election.
iii. Electoral malpractice also includes any act by elctoral pooficials to change results or tamper with the electoral process in favour of a candidate or political party.
Forms Of Electoral Malpratices
1. Use Of Fake Ballot Papers: Politicians collude with electoral officials to introduse fake ballot papers to manipulate results.
2. Artificial Scarcity Of Electoral Material: Electoral officials collude with politicians and political parties to hoard electoral marterials such as ballot papers and result sheet which they use secretly to manipulate figores and the results of the electrion.
3. Underage Voting: In collusion with electoral official politicians cause underage person to vote in elections.
4. Thuggery and intimidation: This is the use of thugs to harass and intimidate voters and elctoral officials.
5. Ballot Box Snatching: Politician arrange thugs to snach ballot boxes after voting have ended or during voting. Thay stuff the boxes with ballot papers which were not used at the polling centres.
6. Finacial Inducement: This is the use of money to inflience voting. Voters are given money by agents of political parties to vote for particular candidates. It also involves the use of money to influence electoral officials to favour a particular candidate in an election.
7. Fake Manifestoes: Political parties deveive the electorate with fake manifestoes. Fake promise of things they want want to do if voted for. Politicians promise “heaven and earth” to win election. This is fraudulent.
Causes Of Electoral Malpractices
1. Weak electoral laws: Weak electoral laws encourages candidates to rig electionms and commit electoral offences because electoral offender are punished.
2. Delays in judging election cases: The election petition tribunals and appeal courts spend so much times, runing in to years in the trial of electoral petitions. Election case are not given sppeedy trial. This encourages electoral malpractice.
3. Candidates are sworn in before election petiiton are determined: in the process, candidate who rigged to win are aworn into office before the petitions against them are deceded. This encourages electoral malpractice because candidates want to win at all cost.
4. Corruption Of Judicial Official: Some judges and judicial official charged with election petition matters are corrupt. So cases are not only delayed deliberately but judgements are most times flawed and tainted with corruption.
5. Political In Nigeria Is A Lucrative Business: The laws of the land have made politics a lucrative business because elected officials and pilitical appointees enjoy very fat salaries and allowances. This makes people to do anything to win election.
6. Imposition Of Candidates:
Political parties impose unpopular candidates to contest election. Such candidates engage in forms of malpratice to win. This is the case with the dominant or ruling parties at the state or national level.
7. Incompetent And Corrupt Electoral Bodies: Some officials of the INEC and their agents are known to be corrupt. They lack integrity and work for the highest bidder, (person who pays more). This promotes electoral malpratice.
8. Unemployment: So many young men and women are idle and unemployed. They become ready tools for thuggery, in the hands of politicians.
Consequences Of Electoral Malpratice
1. Electoral Malpratice Destroy Merit: Electoral malpratice challenges the vitues of merit, honesty and honour. Candidates who win elections are denied victory while the losers are declared the winners.
2. Challenges To Democracy: Electoral malpratice is a challenge to democracy. It destroy democratic values. Citizens are denied effective participation in affairs that concern them, while those who govern them do not have their mandate or blessing to do so.
3. Illegitimate Government: Electoral malpractices produces representatives and leaders who emerge by force or other unlawful means, not by the will of the people or the electorate. The government that result is usally not respected by the electorate. Such government lack legitimacy.
4. Lack Of Accountability: Those who win elections through fraud, rigging and other forms of electoral malpractice, do not owe obligation to the electorate. They usually behave irresponsibly and not accountable to the people.
5. Lack Of Development: Electoral rigging and other malpractices irresponble government whose members serves themselve not the citizens. Such governments do not provide development projects and welfare services.
6. Voter Apathy: People become apathetic and unwilling to participate or vote in elections because they believe their votes won’t count.
Preventing Electoral Malpractice
1. Make the INEC independent of executive control: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be made truly independent of government influence. Funding of the INEC should be on first charge i.e., the executive should have no hand in it.
The appiontment of the principal officials of the INEC, like the chairman, should aslo not to be politicized. It should be the responsibility of an impartial and non partisan body like the National Judicial Commission. This will reduce the overbearing influence of the executive or ruling party on the INEC.
2. Electoral Law Reforms: The electoral laws should be reformed to give it teeth and bite. The laws should be stringent enough to deter offenders.
3. Election petition cases should be concluded before winners are sworn into office. This will make electoral malpractices and the quest to win at all cost unattractive.
4. Voters registration adequate preparations and safeguards must be made to register all eligible voters so that no one is disenfranchised.
5. Employment opportunities: Our numerous youths should be given employment to reduce idleness and poverty which make them ready tools for political thuggery.
Unemployment and poverty make eligible voters to be vulnerable(open to), to vote selling.
6. There should be public education and enlightenment of the electorate on the dangers of voter apathy, selling of votes and the need to protect votes.
Members of the public should be made to know that vote selling is counter productive, i.e, it will lead to lack of social amenities, such as good roads, water, hospitals, education and employment opportunities. Those who win by buying votes would not serve the people. They would make efforts to recoup or recover their election expenses.