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2019 elections ballot papers to appear in three columns, no more one—INEC
…However, convergence of parties to form CUPP may change plans
The chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu has given a strong indication that rather than expect a rather too long ballot paper, electorates should expect a three-columned ballot paper.
However, the recent massive realignment powered by the splinter Reformed All Progressive Congress (R-APC) and leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where about 38 other political parties converged to form Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), may change plans at the INEC situation and strategy room ahead of 2019 election.
In an interview in a national TV, monitored in Lagos, Prof Yakubu stressed that the development remains a challenge that the commission must face, saying “We are doing what the law said that we should do, and if INEC doesn’t, then obviously we will be ordered by the court to register the political association as political parties”.
“On how do we manage the ballot? In Anambra state, where we had a governorship election in November last year, we had the highest number of parties contesting in any governorship election in the country, we had 37 political parties.
“And we had little difficulty in managing the ballots. You know at present we had what we call a snake ballot paper, it is a two column long, but it cannot be convenient for the purpose of 37 political parties, so in Anambra we introduced the two column ballot paper.
According to him, “In view of the national election in 2019, we are assuming that there would be perhaps 80 political parties contesting so we have been having drills on the size of ballot papers”.
“For now, we are comfortable with a three column ballot paper, we will engage with Nigerian citizens’ big time to voter’s education, voter’s sensitisation, the support of political parties, civil society organisations, and the media.
“We will have posters containing specimen ballot papers that citizens can look at to familiarise themselves with the ballot papers ahead of the election. But they have another challenge, if they need a big ballot paper, they will also need a big ballot box.
On the ballot boxes, Prof Yakubu averred that “At present, we use the 40 to 45 litres ballot boxes and we have been doing further drills in the office to see how many ballot papers on the basis of 80 political parties can fit into the existing ballot boxes and for the three columns we are comfortable with the existing ones.
“So we know that it is going to be a challenge and we have taken steps to make sure that we overcome the challenges.
On the sudden surge in political parties, INEC boss noted that “the electoral act further says that if an association applies for registration as a political party and doesn’t hears from INEC within a month, it is constitutionally adjudged to have been registered”.
“And there were political parties that were actually registered by court order. The law says that we should register association that applies for registration as a political party, but any association registered six months to the general election cannot participate in the next general election so we keep registering based on the provisions of the law until that threshold has been met.
“At present we have 68 political parties, but as at last week, we had 138 applications from associations for registration as political parties.
This is as the agency has said it will spend about N600m on the Ekiti State governorship election which will take place on July 14, 2018.
The INEC National Commissioner in charge of the Ekiti election, Prince Solomon Soyebi, who is also the National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, said over 11,000 officials would take part in the election and that collection of PVCs may have ended Sunday nationwide.
According to him, “For the Ekiti election, the aggregate is much because when we talk about the commission spending on Ekiti, I can assure you that we are spending over N600m.”
Soyebi noted that about 280,000 Permanent Voter Cards had not been collected, adding that the collection of PVCs would stop on Sunday, July 8 (yesterday).
The INEC commissioner said it was likely that once the distribution of PVCs stopped; there would be no fresh registration until after the 2019 general elections.
“Sunday is the deadline for the collection of PVCs. And for Ekiti, there is not likely to be any other Continuous Voter Registration exercise until after the 2019 elections. So, we have been telling people to go and collect their PVCs.”