Once the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), assent to the reworked Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill presently on his table, the Independent National Electoral Commission will be barred from receiving applications for registration of more political parties to participate in the 2023 general elections.
Section 78 (1) of the current Electoral Act states that any political association that meets the requirements for registration as a political party shall be duly registered provided that such an application is submitted to INEC not later than six months before general elections.
However, Clause 75 of the new electoral bill sent to the President for assent stipulates that application for registration must be submitted at least one year before a general election.
Clause 75(1) reads, “Any political association that complies with the provisions of the constitution and this Act for the purposes of registration shall be registered as a political party: Provided, however, that such application for registration as a political party shall be duly submitted to the commission not later than 12 months before a general election.
With the Presidential and National Assembly elections fixed for February 18, 2023, it means that if the President signs the electoral bill, no association would be able to apply for registration as a political party from February 17, 2022.
The PUNCH had on December 26, 2021, exclusively reported that less than two years after the INEC deregistered 74 political parties due to their poor performance in the 2019 general elections, no fewer than 107 groups had approached the commission for registration as political parties.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request sent by Sunday PUNCH, the Deputy Director, SERVICOM at INEC, Olayide Okuonghae, said between 2019 and December 14, 2021, about 101 political associations had applied for registration.
The bill, if signed into law, would not affect those who have already applied for registration.
The number of political parties in the country dropped to 18 when INEC deregistered the political parties.
INEC had on February 6, 2020, deregistered 74 political parties due to their poor performance in the 2019 general elections and the re-run elections that followed.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said in addition to the extant provision for the registration of political parties, the Fourth Alteration to the Section 225(a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, empowers the Commission to deregister political parties.
During the 2019 general elections, 91 political parties participated in the exercise, while an additional party, Boot Party, was registered based on the order of a court after the election.
However, the National Assembly has stripped INEC of the power to deregister parties especially based on not winning an election.