Despite their endorsement of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, all the 73 parties that fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential election would be on the ballot papers, the Independent National Electoral Commission has stated.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, made the clarification in an interview with The PUNCH, on Sunday.
Okoye said, “The commission will have the names and the logo of the 73 political parties fielding presidential candidates in the 2019 elections. In the eyes of the constitution and the law, the parties whose names have been published will contest the election and it is immaterial that they are canvassing for votes for other candidates.
“The CUPP is not a registered political party. It has the right to exist by virtue of the provisions of Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) guaranteeing right to peaceful assembly and association. The CUPP is also entitled to right to freedom of expression guaranteed in section 39 of the same constitution.”
When asked whether the CUPP leadership had written to INEC that they were supporting Atiku and as such, would not field candidates, Okoye said political parties were not under obligation to inform INEC of their decisions.
He said, “Political parties are not obligated to inform the commission of the alliances and decisions they make relating to their internal dynamics. Alliances and positioning are part of the democratic process. Writing to INEC on the issue of their support for a candidate is a redundant exercise.
“When parties merge or want to merge, they follow the laid down procedures in the constitution and the Electoral Act. Parties going into an alliance do so on their own. But all the 73 parties that fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential election will be on the ballot and nothing will change that fact. It is however their right to engage in their own political action.”
The commission also rendered invalid the withdrawal of the presidential candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, from the race.
Okoye said, “By Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) the period for the withdrawal of candidates for all categories of elections has lapsed. The permission for a candidate to withdraw in section 33 of the Electoral Act is anchored on Section 35 of the Electoral Act.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act provides that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted to the commission except in cases of death or withdrawal. Section 35 specifically provides that the withdrawal in Section 33 must take place within the period covered by Section 35 and this period has elapsed.”