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In today’s Civic Education class, We will be discussing Electoral Malpractice. We hope you enjoy the class!
Meaning of Electoral Malpractice
Electoral malpractice can be defined as illegal interference with the electoral process. It is also known as electoral fraud or voters ‘fraud. It includes illegal registration, intimidation at a polling station and improper counting of votes.
Forms of Electoral Malpractice
Electoral malpractice includes the following:
- Use of Fake Ballot Papers: Use of fake ballot papers amounts to electoral malpractice. Such papers are used for multi-voting purposes so that a particular candidate can win the election. This leads to vote manipulation making the ‘wrong’ candidate win the election thereby robbing the electorates of their right choice of leaders.
- Underage Voting: This is a situation where youths below constitutionally approved voting age are made to vote. This could be done in areas where the party has few legal voters and more youths under voting age.
- Artificial Scarcity of Electoral Materials: Electoral malpractice also involves deliberate denial of the electorates of voting materials such as ballot boxes, papers etc to frustrate them. This is done in areas where it is known that a particular candidate has strong support and no other means can be used to fight him. The non-availability of ballot papers will hinder the supporters of such party or candidate from voting thereby reducing his chances of winning the election.
- Financial Inducement: Voters may be given money or other rewards to vote for a particular candidate though this may be against their choice. Vote-buying as it otherwise called may be done indirectly when politicians bribe Pastors, Imams to tell their followers to vote for a particular candidate.
- Fake Manifestos: Parties may give fake manifestos to woo voters to their side. At the end of the elections, these promises will not be fulfilled.
- Thuggery and intimidation: There are situations where thugs are hired by political parties to intimidate people by coming out with dangerous weapons like cutlass, arrows and guns. This scares electorates away from performing their civic duty.
- Disenfranchisement: Electoral malpractice can also be in the form of changing the information about the electorates. This renders them unqualified for the election.
- Intimidation: This involves putting undue pressure on a voter or group of voters so that they can vote in a particular way or decide not to vote at all. This intimidation could be through the threat of violence, legal threat, economic threats and so on.
- Misinformation: This is a situation where people distribute false and misleading information in order to affect the outcome of the election. It could be in the form of false rumours made against a party or its candidate.
- Ballot Stuffing: This occurs when electorates cast more than votes expected. It simply means ‘stuffing’ multiple ballot papers into ballot boxes in favour of a particular party or its candidate. It can also be in the form of voting in many polling booths for the same party or its candidates.
Furthermore, it can be in form of booth capturing where a gang of thugs invade’ a polling booth, hijack the ballot boxes and papers and cast votes in the name of legitimate voters that have been scared away from the polling booth.
- Mis-recording of Votes: This normally happens to people who need the assistance of others for voting, for instance, the blind or illiterate electorates. Those assisting them may lead them to vote for the wrong candidates.
- Destruction or Invalidation of Ballots: Electoral malpractice can be in form of deliberate destruction of ballots papers of a particular party or candidate. This will alter the election results and may favour another party that should have lost ordinarily.
Causes of Electoral Malpractice
Crave for Power: Many politicians engage in electoral malpractice because they want political power at all cost. Unfortunately, such people do not perform when they ‘win’ the election but rather engage in looting the government treasury.
Poverty: It is easy for politicians to buy electorates with money or other materials such as food items, clothes, shoes and so on. Many people will not mind selling their votes once their present needs are met.
Lack of Political Education: Many electorates are easily deceived by politicians because they are ignorant of their rights and responsibilities during the election. Politicians play on the ignorance of the electorates to manipulate the elections.
Bribery and Corruption: Some electoral officials do connive with politicians to manipulate an election. Once the politicians have bribed them with money, they tend to overlook whatever is happening to the ballot boxes and the ballot papers. They could also allow the politicians and their thugs to engage in multiple voting or tinker with election figures to favour a particular party.
Inadequate Planning: If the electoral body does not prepare adequately for the elections they will create an opportunity for electoral malpractice. For instance, where the government does not provide enough policemen at polling booths, thugs will have a field day stuffing the ballot boxes with votes of their candidates.
Late Arrival of Materials at Voting Centres: Late arrival of materials will cause lateness in voting and if voting extends into the night it will be easy for unpatriotic elements to perpetrate all kinds of electoral malpractice.
Influence of the Party in Power: There are times when the party in power indirectly dictates to the electoral commission. There could be ‘order from above’ to upturn results of the election to favour the candidates of the party in power.
Lack of Stiff Punishment for Offenders: If the government does not give severe punishment to those engaging in electoral malpractice to act as a deterrent to others the heinous act may continue unchecked. The perpetrators will be encouraged to continue since they know there will be little or no punishment.
Other Factors: Other causes include selfishness on the part of politicians, lack of love for the nation, dishonesty, godfatherism and so on.
Consequences of Electoral Malpractice
Some of the effects of electoral malpractice are:
- Bad Leadership: Electoral malpractice allows the wrong people to be in government. These people may be inexperienced, visionless and Corrupt. All of these will cause bad leadership.
- Riots and Chaos: Electoral malpractice could lead to riot, violence, burning of houses and destruction of property. Nigeria has experienced all these in almost every general election conducted so far.
- Bad image: Electoral malpractice paints the country bad internationally. The nation is seen as a corrupt nation. The leaders cannot earn the respect of nations where democracy is successfully thriving. Our leaders would be seen as crooks who are not fit to rule the country.
- Loss of Interest in voting: Where election results are always manipulated, electorates may develop apathy towards voting in subsequent elections. No amount of persuasion on the part of the government will make them vote.
- Loss of Live and Property: Many have lost their lives, cars, buildings, parts of their body to riots and protests over election results.
- Military Intervention: Where electoral malpractice becomes the order of the day or causing civil unrest, bad leadership and political problems, the military may see the need to come back. This will bring a serious setback to the growth of democracy in Nigeria. Under the military, all democratic institutions will be scrapped and the military will rule by decree and not by the wish of the people.
We have come to the end of this class. We do hope you enjoyed the class?
Should you have any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.
In our next class, we will be talking about Solutions to Electoral Malpractice. We are very much eager to meet you there.
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