Problems of Electoral Commissions
In order to ensure that elections are conducted freely and in an orderly manner, an electoral commission is usually established. The electoral commission is the body charged with the responsibility for conducting an election.
The commission is expected to be an independent and impartial body, that is, it should not be under the control or influence of the government or any political party. It is the responsibility of the commission to register political parties and delimit the country into constituencies.
The other functions of the electoral commissions includes the printing of ballot papers, the appointment of electoral officials of various grades, the compilation of votes list, the construction of polling stations and the declaration of election results.
The major problems which confront electoral commissions are largely political and managerial. This problem are listed in no particular order below.
1. Lack of Confidence in the Commission
The success or failure of an Electoral Commission depends, to a large extent, on the confidence which the people and various parties and stakeholders have in its ability to discharge its duties efficiently and effectively.
Where the body is seen by the opposition as an appendage or surrogate of the ruling government, then its activities are likely to be viewed with suspicion. If the commission is however, seen as an impartial arbiter, the parties will likely have confidence in it.
Because the members are usually appointed by the government of the day and in view of the inability of some elected officials to rise above partisan considerations, the activities of the Electoral Commission are often viewed with scepticism especially in developing countries.
2. Partisanship of Electoral Officials
Electoral officials are sometimes biased in favour of one party or the other. Despite the rejection of electronic voting by the national assembly and most political parties in Nigeria, the Electoral Commission still insisted on its use for the conduct of the 2007 elections until the government prevailed on it to drop the idea.
3. Use of Violence and Intimidation by Party Officials
The ability of Electoral Commission to discharge their duties is usually impaired by the use of thuggery, arson and other instruments of violence by party officials
4. Lack of Funds
Funds to procure electoral materials, pay polling officials and carry out all the logistics are usually not released in good time. Sometimes the commissions are deliberately starved of funds so that they may compromise their independence.
5. Poor Logistics
Bad administration is another common problem of electoral bodies. Sometimes, the basic equipment and facilities are not available or are grossly inadequate where they are available.
The commission has also been unable to overcome its historical lack of capacity to distribute election materials to Polling units and commence elections on schedule.
6. Lack of Independence
The electoral commissions, especially in developing countries, generally lack independence. This should not be a surprise since the members of the commission are usually government appointees.
Many times, the members of the commission are known to have party affiliation. But more worrisome, especially in African country is the predilection of the electoral commission to do the bidding of the ruling party or the government in power.
7. Problem of Controlling Undemocratic Political Parties
Electoral commissions deal with political parties which are largely undemocratic in their mode of operation and particularly in the nomination of candidates for general elections.
Party primaries are usually manipulated by political leaders in order to impose their preferred candidates on the mass. Consequently, the commission is bogged down by numerous lititations.