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Cablegate: Nigeria: Associations Challenge Electoral

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001595

SIPDIS


KAMPALA FOR AID-D. LIBERI
RIYADH FOR POL- R. HANKS


E.O. 12598:N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ASSOCIATIONS CHALLENGE ELECTORAL
COMMISSION'S AMENED REGISTRATION GUIDELINES


REFTEL: AUBJA 1496


1. Summary: The thirty-three political associations railed
against party registration guidelines the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) revised on 5/17,
arguing that the amended guidelines were as unconstitutional
as the ones they rejected earlier this month (reftel).
Though the association plans to meet INEC's May 28
application deadline, they are threatening to take INEC to
court over provision they believe contravene the 1999
Constitution. This is the latest in the volley in the
running feud between the yet to be registered associations
and INEC. While some of what we see is theatrics, this
episode demonstrates the lack of confidence the association
has in INEC. They continue to believe that the "I" in INEC
does not stand for "independent" but "instrument" of the
President. End Summary.


--------------------------------------------
Associations challenge INEC draft guidelines
--------------------------------------------


2. Thirty-three political associations seeking party
registration unanimously rejected the amended draft
guidelines INEC issued on May 7. INEC had amended the
guidelines after a stormy meeting with representatives of
the association on May 17. The association argues vehemently
that the provisions of the guidelines exceed constitutional
requirements. The associations claim that INEC cannot impose
requirements not specifically contained in sections 222,
223, and 224 of the 1991 constitution-the sections relating
to political parties. Section 222 (c) requires parties to
provide INEC with one copy of their constitution, but INEC
wants twenty copies. Section 222 (a) requires parties
provide INEC names and address of the political parties
national officers; however, INEC requires signatures and
"state and local government area of origin" for all party
members.


3. INEC Chairman Dr. Abel Guobadia asserts that sections
relied on by the associations are just minimal standards
that the constitution contemplate and that the National
Assembly and INEC will produce additions and laws of
regulation, respectively. Guobadia cites Section 228 of the
Constitution as giving INEC the power to register parties
and establish regulations beyond what is specifically
contained in the Constitution so long as INEC does not
isolate provisions of the Constitution. The parties want the
courts to decide on whether the guidelines are
constitutional.


4. Comment: Many of the issues raised by the association
seem unimportant. However, the associations contend that
they must fight the Electoral Commission in these minor,
alleged constitutional violations. If they acquiesce, they
fear they will be in a weaker position to argue with INEC on
more serious arrogation of authority in the future. Again
this fear that INEC is setting to entrap them illustrates
how much the association distrusts INEC. End Comment


------------------------------------
The 10/24 rule and the Election Law
------------------------------------


5. The most controversial provision of the May guidelines
required that parties win 10% of the seats in local
elections in 24 states to be eligible to participate in
state and federal elections. The amended guideline makes no
explicit reference to this requirement. Some observers
believe this omission means that INEC will no longer hold
parties to any requirement. However, others point to the
fact that the amended guideline states that comply with the
2001 electoral act which still includes the 10/24 threshold.
They believe that INEC has not dropped the 10/24 threshold
but was trying to use subterfuge and indirection to sneak
through the backdoor a provision the association openly
railed against.


---------------------------------
INEC: Partial to the Presidency?
---------------------------------


6. The association has also excoriated INEC for basing its
guidelines on the discredited 2001 election law. The
National Assembly amended the law and measures are now
awaiting President assent. INEC's critics state the body
should have based its registration guidelines on the 2002
measure not its tainted predecessor.


-------
Comment
-------


7. The association seems intent on bullying INEC inch-by-
inch. This means that there will be other issues the
association will bring to court. Resorting to the court is a
function of the association's suspicion. Some of their
doubts are exaggerated; some are well founded. While the
courts can have a salutary effect in resolving some issues,
the judiciary cannot cure what requires a political remedy-
the perception that INEC is an appendage and not an
independent entity. In the end, INEC has to do a much
better job consulting with the political associations and
civil society and take action to demonstrate its
impartiality.
JETER

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