THE IMPACT OF VOTERS’ TURNOUT IN CONDUCTING FREE AND FAIR ELECTION (A CASE STUDY OF 2015 GENERAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA)
1.1 Background of the Study
In a statement on the 2015 Nigerian General Elections the Freedom House (2015a) congratulated Nigerians for an election that ―appears to be one of the smoothest and least violent in Nigeria‘s history,‖ and, hoped that ―the democratic transition occurs peacefully and with respect for human rights of all.‖ Yet, despite the positive remarks Nigeria was categorized as ―partly free‖ using ratings from political and civil rights enjoyed by the citizens.1 In fact the Organization (2015b) placed most African states in the same category as Nigeria stating that the continent ―saw overall if uneven progress toward democratization during the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, recent years have seen backsliding among both the top performers, such as South Africa, and the more repressive countries, such as The Gambia and Ethiopia.‖ Why is this assessment important and what do elections and voter turnout have to do with it? The democratization project concerns primarily the guaranteeing and enjoyments of civil and political rights for citizens. Democracies make these rights possible through citizen participation in elections and governance. A major difference between countries where democracy is consolidated (established democracies), and countries undertaking democratic transitions and consolidation (democratizing countries), is the extent to which these rights are guaranteed or restrained. It should be born in mind however, that measures of countries which are ―free‖ or ―partly free,‖ and why, may be controversial but these have been explained and represent, approximately, the situation in the countries (Freedom House, 2015c).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Based on these observations, this study argues that it is too soon and misplaced to claim that the successful 2015 General elections represent the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. (The Guardian newspaper (Editorial: 28/04/2014) for example concluded that ―in spite of some challenges, a new culture has evolved for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria.‖ We can posit at best, that the result and outcome of the elections offered a great chance for Nigeria to embark on democratic consolidation. New policies and reform of institutions which are required for consolidation of democracy do not exist which theorists have identified as prerequisites although they have failed to equally analyze the requirements which make such reforms possible or difficult especially for countries in Africa, that is, level of popular support and legitimacy which enables regimes to successfully initiate the reforms needed for democratic consolidation.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The study sought to know the impact of voters’ turnout in conducting free and fair election. Specifically, the study sought to;
- To determine the requirements for a democratic consolidation.
- To know the voter turnout and voting behavior in the 2015 Nigerian General Elections.
- To identify the regional ethnic pattern of voting.
- What are the implications for democratic consolidation under the incoming regime
1.3 Research Questions
The questions for investigation include the following:
- What are the requirements for democratic consolidation?
- What was the voter turnout and voting behavior in the 2015 Nigerian General Elections?
- What was the regional ethnic pattern of voting?
- What are the implications for democratic consolidation under the incoming regime?
Answers to these questions will help us determine the likelihood or otherwise of democratic consolidation under the incoming regime.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
Ho: Voter turnout and voting behavior in the 2015 Nigerian General Election was discouraging.
Hi: Voter turnout and voting behavior in the 2015 Nigerian General Election was encouraging.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study therefore attempts to contribute to the theory of democratization in Africa by examining the amount of support an incoming regime must have in order to successfully carry out needed reforms for democratic consolidation using data from the 2015 General elections in Nigeria. It will be argued that the voter turnout and the voting behavior in the elections offer a clue to whether the incoming regime of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has the initial support to successfully embark on the process of democratic consolidation. The premise of the study is that the concepts of voter turnout and voting behavior can contribute to theories of democratization and suggest ways in which a synthesis of the concepts could increase our understanding of the process of democratic consolidation with particular reference to Africa. Knowing the initial support regimes have at inception, they can work to increase popular participation for further legitimacy.
1.7 Scope/Limitations of the Study
This study is on the impact of voters’ turnout in conduction free and fair election.
Limitations of study
- 1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
- 2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Election: is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
Voter Turnout: is the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election. (Who is eligible varies by country, and should not be confused with the total adult population. For example, some countries discriminate based on sex, race, and/or religion. Age and citizenship are usually among the criteria.)