The polity has witnessed an astronomic rise in the number of political parties since 1999, when the country returned civil rule returned after long years of military dictatorship.
From three parties then – Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Peoples Party (APP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the number has kept growing, even as many are still seeking to be registered.
Just recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the registration of five new political parties, which brings to 45, the total number of political parties in Nigeria.
The newly registered parties are Young Progressive Party (YPP), Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGP), All Democratic Peoples Movement (ADPM), Action Democratic Party (ADP). Their registration comes as INEC intensifies preparations for the 2019 elections.
While the number of parties keeps growing, analysts believe that majority of the existing parties have contributed little or nothing to the democratic process. Little wonder that the same INEC had in the past de-registered many of them.
Part V, Section 7 of the Amended Electoral Act specifically confers the commission with powers to deregister any political party which breaches its registration requirement(s) or fails to secure a legislative seat in either the state or federal legislature.
The section states: “The Commission (INEC) shall have powers to de-register political parties on the following grounds: (i) breach of any of the requirements for registration, and (ii) for failure to win a seat in the National Assembly or State Assembly election.”
Despite the provision, the lesser parties have always protested any time INEC enforces it. While their argument has always been that deregistration is an infringement on the constitutional right to freedom of association. Some have even gone to court to challenge INEC’s power to take such action, and even gotten judgement.
But, there is a political school that believes that de-registration of non-performing parties will minimize wastage of materials as well as make it easy for the electorate to vote for parties of their choice during elections. This, they justified with the number of voided votes during elections.
Irrefutably, one of the key hallmarks in the tenets of democracy is the choice of expression and association. In fact this is considered as the single biggest gain of a democratic government. However, the multi-party system currently practiced in the country appears not engender a strong and competitive polity.
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