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Three things you should know about Nigeria’s postponed elections

What was behind the delay, what will the impact be and what is next?

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INEC briefs stakeholders in Abuja on February 16, 2019 - News Central

The postponement of Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary election by one week has set off a flurry of questions about what was behind the delay — and what happens next.

Who benefits from the delay?

Nigeria’s political establishment has criticised the postponement, which was announced about five hours before polls were to open.

Both President Muhammadu Buhari, who is standing for a second term, and the leading opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, have signalled their disapproval.

But behind the scenes, observers say Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) and Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) both have complaints about how the election commission has handled preparations.

The PDP claimed repeatedly that the vote’s integrity was being undermined.

Meanwhile the APC has fumed over court orders that barred their legislatives candidates from running in the states of Zamfara and Rivers, because of disputes of primary polling.

The week-long delay could benefit either party, and some are openly suspicious that the APC orchestrated it, despite official denials from the electoral body that the decision was all theirs.

“Many people believe that the government created an enabling environment for the postponement,” Auwal Musa, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre said in a televised interview.

Was Nigeria ready to vote?

People across Nigeria reacted with dismay to the last-minute announcement but signs of disorganisation were apparent in the days before voting was to start.

AFP journalists saw numerous polling stations that were only receiving ballot papers and voting card readers on Friday evening or had not received them at all.

“We had gone through training, preparation, we were ready,” said Austin Onwuosanya, who had been due to officiate in the commercial capital, Lagos.

But voting equipment never showed up at his polling station.

Election planning in Nigeria is often hampered by poor roads and the dilapidated power grid.

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in part blamed bad weather and roads for a delay in the distribution of materials.

He insisted ballot papers and results sheets were ready.

But Cheta Nwanze, of analysts SBM Intelligence, said “INEC organisation has regressed under the current chairman”, and that it was possible politicians were deliberately undermining the preparations.

What does the delay mean for the election?

It seems certain the delay will affect the outcome of the final vote.

Many Nigerians travel from cities into the countryside to vote in their family homes, while others return from overseas.

But with most of the country impoverished, despite the country’s vast oil wealth, many Nigerians will struggle to recover from wasted transport money or days of lost work.

“This is really disheartening,” said Paul Emurotu, who travelled from Lagos to Warri in the oil-producing Niger delta region to cast his ballot.

He doesn’t know if he can afford to make the 450-kilometre (280-mile) journey a second time.

Thousands of INEC employees have also deployed across the country, some to hard-to-reach rural areas without electricity.

There, they organised voting materials by the light of their cellphones, then slept on the floor in order to open polls on time, only for voting to be postponed.

Udo Ilo, Nigeria director for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, said it was now imperative that INEC safeguard the ballot papers and other sensitive materials distributed before the postponement to prevent tampering.

“What steps (are) INEC… taking to ensure the integrity of the material?” he asked.

Yakubu has assured all sensitive materials are being stored at Central Bank of Nigeria facilities until the rescheduled dates.

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Op-Ed

First 100 days in office, what’s in it? (Opinion)

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days.

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The first 100 days

Recently, Nigerians have been pulling out scorecards and more to try and calculate the performances of their governors and the president after their first 100 days in office. Newspaper headlines had these elected officials and those who worked for them sharing achievements of their first 100 days. 

But why and when did the first 100 days become any kind of benchmark? Many of us don’t even know the history behind the concept of the first 100 days. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. 

How it started?

The concept is believed to have its roots in France, where “Cent Jours” or hundred days, refers to the period of time in 1815 when Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris from exile and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. 

It became a key benchmark in America during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt became president in 1932, taking leadership of an America that was extremely battered and was attempting to crawl out of the Great Depression, which followed the crash of the stock market in October 1929. 

Jide Sanwo-Olu also celebrates first 100 days in Office
A cut-out portrait of Nigeria’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu (L), and a portrait of his running mate, Obafemi Hamzat, are displayed along a road on March 6, 2019, in the Ikoyi district of the country’s largest city. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

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He campaigned and won on the idea of a “new deal” for Americans that would see them through and past the hard times. Now, in order to tackle the issues facing the American economy at the time, he pushed through over a dozen pieces of major legislation during the first 3 months of his tenure. The first measures of the New Deal are referred to as the first 100 days. 

So therein lies the historical background of the first 100 days. But should it still apply in the 21st century? Can the first 100 days really show you the direction and possible outcome of any administration? Those are the questions we must answer individually as citizens. However, the way and manner the first 100 days is bandied about in Nigeria, simply makes you wonder what the big deal is. 

First 100 days records in Nigeria

Let’s start with President Muhammadu Buhari. According to his party, his second term’s first 100 days have gone well. The National Chairman of the APC said appointing ministers earlier than he did in 2015, having the 2020 budget prepared, and even engaging various professional groups have been the achievements of the first 100 days.

In Lagos, Governor Jide Sanwo-olu said the executive order declaring an emergency on traffic management and transportation and rehabilitation of atrial roads were achievements in his first 100 days.

In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde, listed some of his achievements to be cancellation of all levies paid in Oyo public schools, going to Benin Republic for collaborations in the agribusiness sector and also having a 27 year-old commissioner. 

Buhari's First 100 days
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (C) looks on during the African Union summit at the palais des Congres in Niamey, on July 7, 2019. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

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Each of these gentlemen claim more achievements in their first 100 days, but should we keep the first 100 days as a benchmark along the timeline of an administration?

The 100 days – is it enough?

As citizens of Nigeria and residents of various states, what do we think the first 100 days can tell us about any administration? 

Oftentimes, it appears there is a race to rack up “achievements” or grand gestures on the way to the first 100 days, but what happens after that? Using about 3 months to judge administrations that have 48 months to fulfill their mandate seems a bit pedestrian. 

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days. Governance is a continuous journey, yes, with milestones along the way. But with the way we have elected officials holding programs, writing speeches, etc on their first 100 days, one would think it was more than that. 

The bar in Nigeria many would say has been set low, some would even argue that the bar is underground at this point. What we as citizens need to realize is that the bar is wherever we want it to. When we start to demand better, make those seeking our vote accountable to their campaign promises, and hand out consequences when they don’t meet our expectations, the bar will rise. 

And when the bar rises, we’ll find that the first 100 days loses some of the glamour around it.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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North Africa

2 candidates claim first round wins in Tunisia elections

Turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls

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Tunisia elections: 2 candidates claim wins

Two anti-establishment candidates in Tunisia’s election claimed Sunday to have won through to a runoff, hours after polling closed in the country’s second free presidential poll since the 2011 Arab Spring.

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls. Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and expert on constitutional affairs who ran as an independent, claimed to be in pole position.

He finished “first in the first round,” he said, citing exit polls ahead of preliminary results expected to be announced on Tuesday. There was also an upbeat atmosphere at the party headquarters of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, behind bars due to a money laundering probe, as hundreds of supporters celebrated after he also claimed to have reached the second round.

Other prominent candidates in the first round included Abdelfattah Mourou, heading a first-time bid for Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Ennahdha insisted it would wait for the official results. 

“Only the elections board gives the results,” said Ennahdha MP and Mourou’s campaign director, Samir Dilou. “I do not doubt the work of the polling institutes, (but) it is not their role to impose a certain truth on the public,” he told reporters.

Chahed’s popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living. The prime minister has also found himself having to vehemently deny accusations that Karoui’s detention since late August was politically inspired.

Tunisia Elections: citizens cast their votes
Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Detained but undeterred; Nabil Karoui’s campaign continues in Tunisia

‘Where are the young?’

“Young people of Tunisia, you still have an hour to vote!” ISIE head Nabil Baffoun had urged before the close of Sunday’s vote. “We must leave our homes and vote – it’s a right that we gained from the 2011 revolution which cost lives,” Baffoun added, visibly disappointed by the turnout.

However, he later said that the turnout of 45 percent was “an acceptable level”. At polling stations visited by journalists, there was a high proportion of older voters, but few young people. The election followed an intense campaign characterised more by personality clashes than political differences. 

It had been brought forward by the death of 92-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in July and whose widow also passed away on Sunday morning. Essebsi had been elected in the wake of the 2011 revolt that overthrew former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Publication of opinion polls has officially been banned since July. Some of the 24 hopefuls who contested the polls tried to burnish anti-establishment credentials to distance themselves from a political elite discredited by personal quarrels. Another independent candidate was Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat running for the first time, although with backing from Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party.

The long list of active runners was trimmed by the last-minute withdrawal of two candidates in favour of Zbidi, although their names remained on the ballot paper. But Karoui’s detention, just 10 days ahead of the start of campaigning, has been the top story of the election. Studies suggested his arrest boosted his popularity.

A controversial businessman, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest. But his detractors portray him as a would-be Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier who they allege partly owns his channel.

On Friday, an appeal for the Tunisian mogul’s release from prison ahead of the election was rejected, his party and lawyers said. The polarisation risks derailing the electoral process, according to Michael Ayari, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city
Tunisian voters queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy

‘Divisive’ candidates

Isabelle Werenfels, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, called the vote a democratic “test” because “it may require accepting the victory of a polarising candidate” such as Karoui. Distrust of the political elite has been deepened by an unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rise in the cost of living by close to a third since 2016.

Jihadist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector. Around 70,000 security forces were mobilised for the polls. The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.

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North Africa

Algeria’s interim President announces elections on December 12

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls

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Abdelkader Bensalah announces Algeria Elections December 12

Algeria is to hold a presidential election on December 12, five months into a political vacuum since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests, his interim successor announced Sunday.

“I have decided… that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12,” said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as Algeria’s strongman since the fall of the ailing Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of 2019, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.

On Friday, Algerian protesters returned to the streets after parliament passed bills paving the way for the announcement of elections.

Demonstrators are demanding key regime figures step down and an overhaul of political institutions before any polls, arguing an election under the current framework would only reinforce the status quo.

Gaid Salah earlier this month called for an electoral college to be summoned on September 15 so as to conduct an election within 90 days, in mid-December. Last week, parliament passed two bills that would facilitate the announcement of the vote. 

Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati presented the bills on Wednesday, with both legislative chambers passing them within two days. Opposition parties in the People’s National Assembly boycotted the session in which the bills were passed.

The first bill proposed the creation of an “independent” election authority, while the second text was a revision of Algeria’s electoral law. Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as the 90-day mandate for Bensalah expired in early July. 

The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.

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