Last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) registered 23 new political parties, bringing the number of political parties to 91. The development generated uproar among Nigerians, with dissenting voices questioning the rationale behind such multiplication.
But the argument against the decision to increase the number of political parties has nothing to do with legality. It borders mainly on discretion. That the hands of the electoral body are tied makes it difficult to resist the pressure from political group insisting that they should be registered. The Electoral Act, the law that guides party system, makes provision for a multi- party system.
The argument by most Nigerians is that most of this political parties exist only in paper. In the last five gubernitorial elections in Kogi, Edo, Anambra, Ondo and Ekiti States, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accounted for 95 per cent of the votes, leaving the remaining over 60 parties with just 5 per cent of the votes.
The only state where another party other than the APC and the PDP had a good showing was in Anambra where they All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) won the gubernutorial election. As at last account, APGA has a governor and two Senators, all from Anambra State.
Other established democracies in the world operate a two-party system. The United States has two major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, with other minor parties like Green Party, Libertarian Party and Constitution Party. Although there are multiple parties in the United States, only certain parties qualify to have the names of their candidates for office printed on election ballots. In order to qualify for ballot placement, a party must meet certain requirements that vary from state to state. For example, in some states, a party may have to file a petition in order to qualify for ballot placement.
In other states, a party must rally around a candidate for a specific office. That candidate must, in turn, win a percentage of the vote in order for the party to be granted ballot status. Still in other states, an aspiring political party must register a certain number of voters.
These can be replicated in Nigeria. Inprinting over 90 parties on the ballot paper will make the voting process cumbersome and voters in the rural areas may not find it easy voting.
Parties that fail to win any local government chairmanship seat or a seat in the State or federal Assembly should be deregistered and not allowed to participate in the 2019 general election. The 23 newly registered parties should be assessed with the forthcoming Osun State gubernatorial election next month.
Most of the political parties always enter into mergers and coalition in an election year to stay relevant. On their own, they are aware that they amount to nothing in terms of popularity to garner votes. These mushroom parties are not different from a situation where an individual chooses to run as an independent candidate.
As it is, Nigeria does not need more than five political parties. With this, the country will have stronger political parties that can stand the test of time.