THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it is prepared for a possible run-off in the 2023 presidential election.
INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, who made this known during an interactive media session in Abuja on Friday, November 18, said that the commission has printed additional 93.5 million ballot papers for the run-off should the need arises.
Okoye quoted Section 134 sub-section 2 of the Electoral Act, which states that a run-off is for the candidate with the highest number of votes and the candidate that has a majority of votes in the highest number of states.
He disclosed that the current number of preliminary registered voters in Nigeria is 93.5 million, noting that 9,518,188 new voters were added to the existing register of 84,004,084 voters.
He said, “As of today, 18 political parties will participate in the 2023 general elections, and the law has outlined how candidates will emerge and how a presidential candidate will emerge in Nigeria.
“In case a candidate does not emerge from the first ballot, the commission prints ballots for run-off elections (second election) when we are printing ballots for the main election. In other words, if 93 million Nigerians are on the ballot for the presidential election, we will print 93 million ballots for the first election, and at the same time print 93 million ballots for run-off election in case a winner does not emerge from the first ballot.”
Okoye stated that if at the end of the day, there was no run-off, the commission would destroy the 93 million ballots printed for the run-off when election petitions had been disposed of.
Okoye, justifying why it printed the additional presidential ballot papers, said the law gives the commission only 21 days to engage in reverse logistics and conduct a run-off election in case there was no winner.
He said INEC would print additional ballots for four governorship elections in case there are challenges in terms of a winner not emerging in the first ballot in some of the states of the federation.
He also explained that Section 134 (2) of the amended 1999 Nigerian Constitution makes it mandatory that before anyone could be deemed to have been elected as a president, such person must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election and must also secure a quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
He stressed that if no candidate secures this highest number of votes and the mandatory threshold, the constitution mandates the commission to have a second election within a period of 21 days.
Okoye added that not all the 18 presidential candidates would emerge as a winner, but should anyone of them fail to meet the constitutional requirements for being declared as a winner, two candidates who scored the highest votes would go for a second ballot.
He emphasized that the commission is prepared for any eventuality that may arise from the election.
In July, a delegation of the United States-based National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute had said the 2023 elections would be a departure from some of the political dynamics that defined previous polls in Nigeria.
The delegation of the NDI/IRI, which visited Nigeria and led by Secretary of State for Ohio, Frank LaRose, stated this while presenting its first joint pre-elections assessment statement to journalists in Abuja.
“If a third party draws sufficient support, a run-off presidential election could be a real possibility for the first time since the transition to democracy, adding complexity to the 2023 elections,” the institutes had said.