2019 Election: Nigeria has the lowest rate of voter turnout in Africa

For the first time in history since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria recorded the lowest rate of voter turnout of 34.75 per cent at the last presidential election held on February 23.

The rate of voter turnout is calculated as the percentage of the total number of registered voters by the total number of votes (the summation of the total number of valid votes and the total number of rejected votes) accrued at the end of the election.

The rate of voter turnout in the 2019 election in Nigeria is also the lowest of all recent elections held on the African continent, according to the data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (I-IDEA) reveals.

Data compiled by the I-IDEA, an intergovernmental organisation that supports sustainable democracy worldwide reveals that the turnout of voters at the just concluded presidential election happens to be the second lowest in the history of elections held in African countries the lowest being 32.3 per cent in the 1996 Zimbabwean presidential election.

The data revealed that Rwanda in its 2017 presidential election recorded the highest 98.2 percent. Top 10 countries with the highest voter turnout in their most recent elections are Rwanda; 98.2 percent, Equatorial Guinea — 92.7 percent, Angola — 90.4 percent, Seychelles — 90.1 percent, Guinea Bissau — 89.3 percent, Zimbabwe — 86.8 percent, Sierra Leone — 84.2 percent, Kenya — 79.5 percent, Liberia — 75.2 percent, and Burundi —73.4 percent.

The least 10 are Cote d’Ivoire — 52.9 percent, Algeria — 49.4 percent, Mozambique — 48.6 percent, Sudan — 46.4 percent, Sao Tome and Principe — 46.1 percent, Democratic Republic of Congo — 45.4 percent, Mali — 42.7 percent, Egypt — 41.1 percent, Cape Verde — 35.5 percent and Nigeria — 34.8 percent as the last.

In an earlier report, The ICIR listed some factors that could be responsible for the poor turnout of the presidential election, part of which are insecurity/over-security, apathy, postponement of the election, poor planning.

Speaking on the reasons for the low turnout in the 2019 election, Sam Itodo, Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) said though the majority of Nigerian still appreciates democracy, when it comes to political participation and voting, they hardly show up to cast their vote.



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    “The reason is that democracy is not delivering development to the people. If democracy is delivering development to the people, it will increase the level of turnout because there’s an affinity between democratic development and fulfillment of campaign promises. When people’s lives are not improved, when poverty and inequality are institutionalised, people find it difficult to connect to the social contract that they enter by virtue of voting and the deliverables that comes from democracy,” Itodo said.

    Another reason is the crisis of confidence in democratic institutions.

    “The 2019 elections have dampened citizens’ interest in the process. People do not believe their vote will count, this is further caused by the level of violence, the militarisation of the entire process as well as the campaign of calumny of which parties are supposed to promote issue based participation,” he said.

    He also noted that while talking about voter turnout, it is pertinent to also talk about voter registration. He called for the auditing of the register to ensure and ascertain the accuracy of the figures on the register, after which, we can now begin to compare turnout based on that particular figure.


    Head of Data Unit, International Centre For Investigative Reporting, ICIR.
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