The Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) for the 2019 General Elections, Maria Arena, has said the conduct of the 2023 General Elections will be challenging for the country.
Arena, a Member of the EU Parliament, said in Abuja that Nigerians live in a very challenging country in terms of security, deployment of election materials and also, technology.
Arena however said it is really important to have crucial reforms in the country to guarantee that the forthcoming election can ensure that people can be part of it, even as she said that the broad majority of the people have to be part of the electoral process in the country.
Amongst other issues, Arena canvassed the transparency and independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies and the media, while also calling for the participation of women in the nation’s electoral process.
Why are you in Nigeria?
We are in Nigeria because we have been invited by INEC for the election of 2019. We have made this observation mission during the electoral process of 2019 and we are now for the follow up mission. It is to say that this follow up mission is to assess how the recommendation that we have made after the 2019 election have been taken on board by the authorities in the country.
What has been the response, particularly from political stakeholders?
The response was really positive. We met with all the stakeholders – political parties, assembly, media and the response was really positive on the recommendation. We have seen that the reason encouraging improvement when it comes to the electoral law that has been passed, but there are reforms that are not in this law and there is a way to improve the situation for the next election in 2023.
You were the EU Chief Observer for the 2019 elections and three years down the line, how do you assess our progress so far? Do you think we have moved away from where we were in 2019?
We have positive and perhaps, negative assessment. The positive is that coming from this law that has been passed, it is a really encouraging thing. Also, the way INEC, for example, works with the civil society and with the media is really something very encouraging. The more negative is to say that it is really necessary, for example, when it comes to the participation of women, to find a way of having women participating in the electoral process, but also, to be sure that there is transparency and independency for the national bodies, for example, just like INEC. It is important to guarantee this independence of INEC. Same for the security bodies or for the media. So, this is really something that needs to be improved from now till the election in 2023.
Are you familiar with the new Electoral Law in Nigeria? And does it address some of the concerns you raised in 2019?
Yeah, it addresses some concerns that we had for the 2019 elections. Not all unfortunately, but I think it is an encouraging step forward taken by Nigerian authorities.
The recommendations you made in 2019, how many have been implemented?
We have 30 recommendations and we have 11 recommendations partially implemented and two implemented.
Going forward in 2023, do you think we are on the right track after meeting with INEC, the National Assembly, political parties and others?
You are living in a very challenging country. So, for the next election in 2023, it will be challenging to organise all these elections. It is challenging when it comes to security, it is challenging when it comes to deployment of the materials, challenging when it comes to the technology. So, a lot of challenges are on the table for the moment. It is really important to have important reforms in the country, to guarantee that this election can ensure that people can be part of this election and a broad majority of the people has to be part of this electoral process.
What should we expect from the EU in the next election?
I think it is perhaps something that you have to ask the delegation because now that we put this report on the table for us as observation mission here in the country, we have in a way, finished our work. So, we gave this recommendation, we make an assessment now and we say by this final report, what should be done from now till the election. After that, you have the relationship with the European Delegation that still remain in the country to have accompanying measures, but it is up to the Nigerian people to take these recommendations, to make them priorities and perhaps, to ask support for that.
Generally speaking, the EU has invested in the Nigerian democratic process since 1999. Are you satisfied with your investments?
It is not a question of investment. I think democracy is really something that we share; we share with the Nigerian people, and so, when we improve this democratic system, we are happy, not for us, but happy for the people. So, I hope that Nigerian people are happy to see that democracy is really something that I can build and I can trust in their country.
What message do you have for Nigerians as we prepare for the 2023 elections?
You have a very interesting country, with a big youth in the country. And I think it is important to give the message to this youth and to Nigerian people that participating too in an election is a responsibility for everybody – responsibility coming from the state, responsibility coming from the political parties, responsibility coming from the religious leaders, but also, individual responsibility. So, it is important that everybody can work together for democracy in the country. – Culled from The Sun.