Election is the systematic/periodic selection and voting of the people’s representative and the leaders into office by the electorate or voters. The survival of democracy in a state depends on periodic elections.
PURPOSES/FUNCTIONS OF ELECTION
1. Elections give the political parties time to educate the people on political issues.
2. Elections help to foster democracy, the masses are given chance to participate in election and therefore their will opinions.
3. The masses are given chance to choose their leader who are to represent them in parliament and rule them.
4. During election the people have opportunity to get the leaders to account for their stewardship where the peoples are not satisfied with the party and their officials they are voted out while new leaders are voted in.
5. The voting should be secret ballot to avoid intimidation of voters and elect persons of their choice.
6. Election help for the free change of government instead of a military change which is often undemocratic and violent.
Suffrage or franchise is the political right granted under law to citizens to vote and be voted for in an election. Adult suffrage means all those who have attained adulthood are entitled to vote in any election. The electors are constitutionally known as the electorate, while those seeking to be elected are called the candidates.
The concept and practice of suffrage varies from country to country. It has grown from limited franchise to universal adult franchise in most countries. The term are often used interchangeably.
HISTORY OF SUFFRAGE
The question of who may vote is a central issue in elections. The electorate does not generally include the entire population. For example, many countries prohibit those judges mentally incompetent from voting and all jurisdictions require minimum age for voting. In Nigeria, it is eighteen years.
In the past, the right to vote was restricted. The right to vote and be voted for was a privilege that was conferred only on the rich and noble people. The poor, slaves and women were not given the right to vote. Even in the celebrated Greek city state of Athens women, foreigners and slave were excluded. In the U.S.A only white male property owners are allowed to vote in the early stages of American democracy. But as time progressed, people gained political education that made them aware of their rights. Consequently, there were agitations and demand for democratic rule including universal suffrage.
Much of the history of election involved the effort to promote suffrage for excluded group. The women’s suffrage movement gave women in many countries the right to vote, and securing the right to vote freely was a major goal of the American civil right movement. Extending voting rights to excluded groups continue to be goal of voting rights advocates.
TYPE OF SUFFRAGE
There are two main type of franchise namely:-
· Limited or restricted franchise
· Unlimited or universal franchise or universal adult suffrage.
LIMITED OR RESTRICTED FRANCHISE
In this type of franchise not all qualified adults are allowed to vote or be voted for. Franchise is therefore granted to only those adults that fulfill certain conditions. The criteria for voting and be voted for in a limited franchise may depend on one’s race, religion, sex property owned, evidence of payment of taxes, educational qualification etc.
UNLIMITED OR UNIVERSAL FRANCHISE OR UNIVERSAL ADULT SUFFRAGE
This refer to a situation in which all member of the political community, except those barred by certain objective, non discriminatory and universe criteria, enjoy the right to vote. In this type of franchise, all the adult males and females has the legal right to vote and be voted for in election except the alien or foreigner or those of insane mind or doubtful standing.
PURPOSE OF HOLDING ELECTION
Elections are held for several reasons and perform several functions some of these are outline below:-
1. Election helps to ascertain and aggregate the views, preference, attitudes and opinion of the electorate.
2. Election constitute the process by which those who will act as manager of the business of government are chosen by the community. In other words, election help the citizenry to choose government.
3. Elections create a situation in which those elected to govern are accountable to the government in this way, those who govern are made to rule according to the wishes of the electorate.
4. Elections are supposed to ensure that only the best get elected into public office. They are held so that the various competitors are exposed to the public. This make the masses to assess the strength and weakness of the various candidates and then make up their mind on which to vote for.
5. Elections are held to ensure political stability. This is done in at least two ways, first a sense of belonging is created through the involvement of the people in the choice of those to govern them, second a culture of orderliness in the succession to public office is also created. All these help to create stability and predictability in the political process.
6. Elections provide a very important forum for national discussion, the campaigns debates and discussion that precede elections serve as a means of airing all shades of opinions on nationals issues.
THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM
The electoral system may be defines as the process and procedure by which citizens of a democratic country select through either direct voting or indirectly those who will represent them in the parliament and other positions in the government.
FEATURES AND REQUIREMENTS OF A GOOD ELECTORAL SYSTEM
1. An impartial and independent electoral commission
2. Periodic and regular elections
3. Adoption of secret voting system
4. Delimitation of the country into constituencies
5. Adoption of universal adult suffrages
6. Voting atmosphere devoid of fear of molestation and victimization
7. Provision for the representation of all interest groups in the legislature
8. There should be an acceptable method of nominating candidates for elections.
9. The requirement for qualification as election candidate must be clearly stipulated
10. Compilation of comprehensive voters register that should embrace all qualified voters
11. Regular and periodic display of voters list
12. Periodic revision of voters list
13. The electorate should be given adequate political education
14. There should be an independent judiciary that will handle election petition without fear or favour
15. Ballot boxes should be tightly secured
16. Counting of votes should be publicly done and the result released immediately.
17. Polling offices and officers, ballot boxes and papers and other necessary election personnel and materials should be adequately provided and on time
18. There should be a period for political parties to campaign for votes
19. Certain persons like lunatics, under aged persons, criminals, bankrupts e.t.c should not be allowed to vote in an election
TYPES OF ELECTORAL SYSTEM
1. SINGLE-MEMBER CONSTITUENCY AND SINGLE VOTE
This system is usually referred to as “First past the post” or simple majority system. A candidate has the highest member of votes cast to win the election. Britain, U.S.A, Canada e.t.c are example of this system.
2. SINGLE-MEMBER WITH PREFERENTIAL VOTE
This system allows the electorate to place the candidate in order of preference. The votes of the weaker candidate being distributed to the stronger ones according to second, third e.t.c
3. SINGLE-MEMBER AND SECOND BALLOT
Failure of any candidate to receive absolute majority at first ballot, a second one is held with the weaker candidates either choosing or being required to retire, france, a good example of countries that practice this system.
4. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
The essence of proportional representative is to allocate seats in proportion to the votes cast in multi-member constituencies. It is a methods used to elect representatives into the legislature. The total number of votes which a party or group scores is calculated in proportion to the total member votes cast. The two types of proportional representative are, the list system and single transferable vote.
5. PLURALITY SYSTEM
This is referred to as “first past the post” or simple majority system. In this system, the candidate who score the highest number of votes is deemed elected. It is based on single member constituency. For instance there are four candidates with the following scores from 50,000 voters
Candidate A = 14, 000
B = 13, 000
C = 12, 000
D = 11, 000
Candidate A is declared elected because he has the plurality of votes.
6. SECOND BALLOT SYSTEM
This system involves two ballots. At the first instance the successful candidate is required to obtain an absolute majority of the votes cast (that is 50 percent plus one)if this was not obtained by any of the candidates, a second ballot is required and any of the acceptable result would be eliminated. The winning candidates is then required to obtained a simple majority.
7. THE ALTERNATIVES SYSTEM: in this system each voter is given the permission to indicate his choice of candidates in order of preference first, second and third if there is no absolute majority, the candidate who score least can be dropped and his distribution to other candidate according to the second preference of the voter. Below is a hypothetical example
Note: Votes for C distributed between A and B as second preference.
8. ABSOLUTE MAJORITY SYSTEM
In the absolute majority of voting a candidate must score more than half of the votes cast before he can be declared the winner.
9. THE REPEATED BALLOT:
The repeated ballot is an electoral system in which voters vote continuously with intervals for discussion and negotiations until a winner emerges. The system is used in nominating the American Presidential candidate at the party’s convention/primary. The system is also applicable when a new pope is to be elected by a body of cardinals.
10. ADULT SUFFRAGE:
This is the type of electoral system in which all adult men and women are not disqualified for one reason or the other are allowed to vote
11. MALE SUFFRAGE
In this type of electoral system only adult men are allowed to vote, women are prevented from voting.
12. PROPERTY SUFFRAGE
Owners of property or assets are allowed to vote in this type of electoral system.
13. TAX-PAYER SUFFRAGE
Only these who show evidence of tax payment are allowed to vote in this electoral system.
ORGANIZATION OF ELECTIONS
FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
A free and fair election refers to an election conducted in an atmosphere devoid of harassment, intimidation and other coercive means in order to bend the will of the voters and according to constitutional procedures. In this type of election, electoral vice are eliminated, the will of majority of voters prevails. All forms of electoral malpractise is also not allowed.
FEATURES OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
1. There must be an independent electoral commission to allay the fear of the minority and opposition party. The electoral commission is to be impartial, fearless and free from executive and party control.
2. There must be proper demarcation of the country into electoral constituencies based on equal population representations.
3. There must be votes register which must be periodically reviewed.
4. Voting must be by secret ballot and one man vote for the qualified adults.
5. The electors must have a choice of candidate and the policies of the contesting parties.
6. Counting of voters must be in public and the result must be announced immediately in public
7. Campaigning and giving of gifts on the day of the election should not be allowed.
8. There must be room for the challenge of election result in law courts or election tribunals.
9. Elections petitions are to be examined and investigated accordingly.
10. All forms of intimidation by either thugs or police are not allowed.
STAGES INVOLVED IN CONDUCTING FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
There are many stages for an election in a country. The stages are:-
1. The promulgation or enactment of electoral decrease or laws
2. Constitution of the members of the electoral commission
3. Demarcation of the country into constituencies
4. Compilation and revision of a register of voters
5. Balloting or actual voting
6. Counting of votes and collation of result
7. Release of result
8. Second ballot
An electoral commission is a body charged with the responsibility organizing, conducting, co-coordinating and supervising as well as announcing the result of election in a given country. It is headed by the chairman who is been assisted by the commissioner called residents electoral commissioner. The body take different names in Nigeria:-
1. Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO)
2. The National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON)
3. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The first federal electoral commission chairman in Nigeria appointed in 1964 was E.F Eusa. The Second federal electoral commission chairman appointed in 1979 was Chief Michael Ani. The third FEDECO chairman appointed in 1983 was Justice Orie Whisky. The fourth chairman appointed in 1987 by General Ibrahim Babangida was Professor Eme Awa. The fifth chairman of National Electoral Commission was Professor Humphry Nwosu appointed in 1989. Dagogo Jack was appointed the chairman of the commission under the Abacha’s Administration, then it was called National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). The seveth chairman of (INEC) appointed by Abdulsalami in 1998 was retire Justice Ephraim Akpata. The eight (INEC) chairman appointed by Obansonjo was retire Justice Gabriel Guobadia while the nineth (INEC) chairman was professor Mourice Iwu. The recent (INEC) chairman appointed by Goodluck Jonathan is Professor Attahiru Jega.
FEATURES OF AN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
1. Organization and conduction of Election: it is the body responsible for organizing and conducting election in a political system.
2. Free and fair election: the commission is responsible for the conduct of free and fair election in a country.
3. Announcement of election result: the body has the power to announce the result of election after it is conducted.
4. Independent body: it is an independent body which is impartial and non-partisan
5. Controlled and headed by chairman: the commission is controlled by the chairman while other members are appointed.
6. Fixed tenure of office: the member of the commission have a fixed tenure of office
7. Resident Commissioner: there are resident commissioners for each state of the federation that assist the smooth conduct of election.
8. A neutral body: it is a neutral body which should be non-partisan in outlook
9. It is guided by the constitutions: this commission has the backing of the law in all its dispensation and actions.
10. Honesty and fair play: the commission should be honest and justice in its decision-making especially with the conduct of the election.
FUNCTIONS OF ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS
1. Registration of parties according to the laid down rule and regulations.
2. Free and fair elections: it organize and conduct free and fair elections in a country.
3. Registration of voters: eligible voters are registered by the commission.
4. Provision of electoral materials: this body has to provide all necessary materials needed for the election for example ballot boxes, ballot papers, polling booths e.t.c
5. Delimitation of the country: the body divides the country into constituencies or electoral districts.
6. Appointment and training: it does the appointment and training of electoral officer such as presiding officers, clerks e.t.c
7. Counting of votes: the commission is responsible for the counting of votes and releasing the result of each election conducted.
8. Financial grants to parties: the commission gives financial grants to political parties.
9. Enlightment: this commission educated the electorate about the necessary issues involved in elections.
10. Screening of candidates: candidates for election are properly screened and their eligibly ascertained before any election.
1. Electoral officers: they are appointed by administrative secretaries to oversee the conduct of elections in specific areas of the state.
2. Registration officers: these are officer appointed to help in the compilation, revision and display of the voters list in preparation for elections.
3. Returning officers: they work under the control of electoral officers, perform the task of counting votes, decides on the validity of used ballot papers, ascertained election result, declare result at the place of counting.
4. Polling clerks: they are appointed to manage polling centers under the overall control of the electoral officer for that senatorial district
5. Registration agents: they are also appointed to political parties or candidates to look after their interest and oversees the registration of voters
6. Counting agent: the candidates or parties contesting election may appoint agents to oversee voting at polling centers. They may also appoint counting of votes at the close of voting.
Public opinion may be defined as the belief, values and attitudes which are commonly held and expressed by the majority of the people on a given public issue.
Public opinion is otherwise called mass opinion, it is the view on any matter of public interest held generally or by the majority of the citizens.
It is also the aggregate of the opinion of the whole national population in some public issues.
FEATURES OF PUBLIC OPINION
1. It is the opinion shared: public opinion deals with an issue affecting most citizens of a particular country and every citizen has to participate in expressing opinion.
2. It involve public issues: public opinion involves public issues.
3. Expression by private person: private individual express public opinion. It is not government or any public private individual express public institutions.
4. The role of communication: opinion through communication and information play a significant role in public opinion formation.
5. Specific issues: opinion expresses by the public are mainly on specific issues rather than on a general public issues.
6. Public opinion is not static: it is dynamic and change from time to time.
MEASUREMENT OF PUBLIC OPINION
Public opinion are molded and formed through the following agencies:-
1. Ministry of Information: This attempt to shape opinion in support of government programmes.
2. Political parties: they try to form public opinion through their public debates.
3. Friends and acquaintance: they influence and shape one’s opinion about policies in a number of ways.
4. Response to government policies: Government can also take notice of public response to it policies. It could be through mass protests and demonstration for or against its programmes.
5. Through Election: it can be measures through the outcome of elections. The result of an election could help to determine how popular or unpopular a government and it’s policies are.
6. Opinion polls: government may use opinion polls to determine the mind and view of the people on a given issue by interviewing a cross section of the public.
7. Referendum or plebiscite: government may conduct a referendum or publiscite to determine what the people want on any particular issue. It determines the acceptability or not of proposals put forward by the government.
FORMATION OF PUBLIC OPINION
1. The Mass Media: Mass media like newspaper, Radio, Magazines, Television, Journals e.t.c act as the cradle for the formation of public opinion.
2. Social Background: The social background one find himself in forming an opinion. Age, Occupation, Education, Peer groups, Family background and they determine the type of opinion citizens can form in a country.
3. Government Role: the type of enlightenment and education the government gives to members of the public determines its policies and actions go a long way in influencing public opinion.
4. Influential citizens: citizen such as traditional rulers intellectuals, tycoons e.t.c and other influential citizens not at the corridors of power act as public opinion moulders in a country.
5. Bureau of information: this bureau is established by the government to inform the public on the activities of government. It helps the public to form opinion on policies made and implemented by the government.
FUCTIONS/IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC OPINION
1. It serves as an avenue through which public views are channeled to the government.
2. Public opinion especially opinion polls provide valuable information about those contesting elections.
3. It brings about the formulation of policies and taking actions that are to the best interest of majority of the citizens.
4. Public opinion helps the government in knowing the needs and aspiration of its citizens.
5. Public opinion helps the government to be watchful over its actions or activities as it relates to the people.
6. In elections period, it help the government to ascertain its popularity and whether it can win or lose the election.
DISADVANTAGE AND WEAKNESSES OF PUBLIC OPINION
1. In a country with large geographical area and many ethnic groups like Nigeria, it will be difficult to ascertain what public opinion is at any particular time.
2. It may cause political instability as a result of protest and demonstration against an action of government termed to be against public opinion.
3. Public opinion can be manipulated by some few influence individuals in the society for their own selfish interest.
4. It is difficult to measure the opinion of people on a particular issue.
5. Views expressed by a cross-section of the society cannot be adequate. Thay are few and as such cannot adequately represent the opinions of the citizens, that are in the majority, such does not make for a consensus of opinion as long as the majority are not involved.
6. It may not represent general opinion: public opinion may be the view of very few powerful and influential individuals in the society.
7. Not often reliable; it is not often reliable and therefore not advisable for government to rely on it.