The Independent National Electoral Commission had incontrovertible evidence that the 28 parties it deregistered on December 6 had not complied with constitutional provisions to enable them to continue existing, chairman of the commission Prof. Attahiru Jega has said.
Speaking to journalists at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja yesterday, Jega said the offences of the 28 parties included their inability to maintain offices in Abuja as well as failure to periodically conduct congresses and conventions to elect party officials as provided by the constitution.
INEC had earlier deregistered seven political parties for failure to field candidates in the 2011 elections, but Jega said the recent exercise looked beyond this reason in order to achieve greater sanity in the political system.
He said any political party which has a case against INEC in the matter was spared from the last deregistration exercise pending the determination of the court case.
He said the exercise should be viewed in the context of bringing sanity to the electoral process and ensuring that all stakeholders in the political process play according to the rules.
“The constitution gives INEC the powers to register political parties. The constitution also defines in Section 221 to 228 what the requirements of registration are,” Jega said.
“Then the provisions that grant power to register political parties also gave the National Assembly the powers to enact laws to govern the electoral process. So the National Assembly enacted the Electoral Act as amended in 2010; and that is the provision of the electoral act that guided our action.
“Section 78(7) of that Electoral Act gave INEC the power to deregister political parties who are not in compliance with the constitutional provisions for the registration of the parties in the first place...As you are aware, we also have the power to monitor the activities of political parties and from the information available to us, we have incontrovertible evidence that the parties that we deregistered have not complied with these provisions of the constitution required for registration.
“In particular if you look at section 222 and 223, political parties are supposed to register with INEC and to have an office in Abuja and hold periodic elections; they are supposed to have executive that represent, in their composition, the federal character, in particular, two-thirds of the states of the federation. Also the electoral act in particular says that those who did not win any seats in any of the elections can be deregistered.”
Professor Jega faulted claims that the commission did not inform the political parties affected before the action was taken.
“INEC wrote a letter to each of the political parties that was deregistered, indicating the grounds upon which they were deregistered. Many of them, about 17 out of the 28 received their letters before we went public to announce they were deregistered,” he said.
“For the remaining ones, some of them we did not get them precisely for the reasons they were deregistered. They are supposed to have offices in Abuja. But our officer who carried the letters went to a particular address of a political party, the signboard is there but there are new tenants in the building; it is a business centre.
“But because we have telephone numbers of the official, he was phoned and told him that we were at his office to give him a letter but we found out that there is a business centre there, and he said we should take back the letter he would come to the office and collect it. But the same parties are now saying that we did not inform them before they were deregistered.”
Jega also faulted insinuations that the commission is on a mission to deregister a particular number of parties, but said the exercise is a continuous one and will only affect parties which do not comply with laws.
“It is not true that we have a particular figure that we want to deregister. But the registration and deregistration of political parties is a continuous process. As more applicants meet the requirement of registration we will register them. As more parties violate the requirements of the constitution and the Electoral Act, we will deregister them,” he said.
Jega clarified the commission’s position on insinuations that it is seeking more powers including the power to disqualify candidates nominated by political parties.
He said the commission is only seeking the repeal of a clause in Section 31 of the electoral act as amended, which says any candidate a political party submits to INEC cannot be rejected “for any reasons whatsoever”.
He argued that the provision contradicts Section 87 of the same Electoral Act which provides that candidates of political parties must emerge through democratic primaries. “They can do direct or indirect primaries depending on the constitution of the party but it must be democratic. Hiding under the clause during the 2011 election, we had cases where we monitored the primaries of parties and where we had records of those who participated in the primaries but where political parties sent to us names of people who did not even participate in the primaries,” he said.
He also recalled that some political parties sent the names of those who came second, third or even fourth as candidates, edging out the person who won the primaries democratically.
Reacting to reports which quoted Ghanaian opposition politicians as saying that he went to Ghana prior to last week’s presidential elections and conferred with the Ghanaian electoral officials, something which allegedly led to their defeat, Jega said they were spurious allegation targeted at tarnishing his image.
He said he arrived in Ghana only as an observer by 8pm on Thursday last week ahead of the election on Friday and never met with any electoral official.