Elections Report 10

Released on 21/02/19

The major event this weekend was the last-minute postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled to take place on Saturday 16 February.

Our Observers tracked the stalling of key elections materials distribution at the Central Bank in Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. In each of the States, materials were still short on Friday evening, although it was not fully clear to party agents what was absent, and what the ramifications of this would be.

By late Friday evening the delay in materials meant that plans were being made and adjusted for overnight delivery of materials to Local Governments, with the inevitable knock-on delays of materials reaching polling units. Election materials never left the Central Bank in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, as among other things, the proposed distribution was overtaken by discussions in Abuja.

Further to the announcement of the delay, reports from Observers so far indicate a general level of frustration, but only very limited examples of this translating into violence or incidents. It appears however that there has been a significant jump in distrust of the electoral commission and Federal Government agencies involved in the election. Allegations that the delay is driven by a voter suppression agenda have been circulating widely and getting a high level of engagement.

There are four main threads of initial reaction:

• Frustration highest among those who have travelled significant distances to vote in their home local governments.
• Conspiracy assertions – PDP spokespeople have specifically alleged plots to delay elections in sensitive states which lean towards the PDP.
• Celebrations of delay – APC supporters in Rivers (and some reports in Akwa Ibom) see the delay as giving them some hope of being reinserted on the ballot.
• Assumptions by analysts and others that the delay would be disadvantageous to the PDP because of the drain on its resources.

Some of the impacts anticipated from the delay:

• Lower levels of trust for all of the election institutions – such as INEC and the security services – and an increased tendency to attribute incidents to malign intent.
• Lower turnout for the second weekend seems inevitable with at least a reduction in those obliged to undertake significant travel to vote.
• All the main actors will face logistical and cost challenges relaunching their engagement with the elections, as well as the possibility of systemic failures, given the tight turnaround for the rescheduled polls.

Read the report in full.

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