Our Perspectives

What contributes to a successful election?


Voters checking their names on registered voters list in Lagos Nigeria.Africa's most populous nation and biggest economy, Nigeria has surprised the world by conducting largely peaceful elections. Photo: UNDP Nigeria

On 28 March 2015, Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and biggest economy, surprised the world by organising largely ‘peaceful’ presidential and national assembly elections.

At a time when the National Human Rights Commission was reporting dozens of deaths from pre-election violence in more half the states in the country, and with analysts predicting more of the same, the country managed to conduct a credible poll, setting an example worth sharing.

Without the commitment, goodwill and resources of power brokers across the country, Nigeria’s achievement would not have been possible, despite the overwhelming acceptance among Nigerians that it was time for change.

Here are some take away lessons:

Role of the National Peace Committee (NPC): National leaders on their own accord established a National Peace Committee that was instrumental in mediating differences between the political parties and building confidence. The Committee persuaded presidential candidates sign two peace pledges in the run-up to the elections— assuring that they would abhor violence and ethnic based campaigning, and promising that they would accept the results of the elections.

Monitoring Mechanism: UNDP provided support to the National Peace Committee by providing monitoring assistance through civil society, promoting consensus, establishing mechanisms to track incidents of electoral performance and violence across the country and most importantly through the deployment of electoral observers.

Substantial International Presence: The work of the Peace Committee was complemented by a substantial international presence, i.e. United States, ECOWAS, Commonwealth, National Democratic Institute and INGOs. All this reflected a great degree of international interest in the elections and commitment to a peaceful outcome.

Public Statements by International Observers: During critical moments, the international community made public statements encouraging the parties to stick to the electoral process and ensuring that there was no distortion of the public will. This proved crucial in reminding the political actors that the international community was watching and was fully engaged in the political process. 

The NPC has done commendable work in managing the presidential and general elections, and has since been meeting different groups of stakeholders from across the country to reassure them of their continued involvement in the process until after the new government is sworn in. It will be important for UNDP to double our support to the NPC, so that significant parts of the population do not see themselves excluded from governance. The risk of political violence remains high in Nigeria, and we must continue to closely monitor the situation as different levels of elections take place in the coming days.

UNDP needs to move with speed to consolidate the work of the NPC. More importantly, a great opportunity now presents itself to work with the Buhari administration to institutionalise and formalise the Committee and transform it into a standing national mechanism for conflict prevention. Nigeria will need this capacity over the coming years, and UNDP is very well positioned to become a partner of choice in this respect.

Talk to us: What factors do you think contributed to Nigeria’s successful elections?

Governance and peacebuilding Elections Political participation Africa Nigeria

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