The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that if political parties participating in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections do not deescalate the present tension the polls might be marred by voter apathy.
It insisted that candidates and their Campaign Councils must tone down their rhetoric and the use of incendiary language aimed at inflaming passion.
National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, in a chat with The Nation, noted that “sowing fear and apprehension in the minds of the voters will disengage them from the electoral process. The escalation of violence will lead to low voter turnout”.
He stressed that, “the political leaders and actors in Edo and Ondo States have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of the voters and assure them that it is safe to go out and vote on Election Day”.
He added that, “the Political Parties, the candidates and their supporters must deescalate the present tension in Edo State. They must tone down their rhetoric and the use of incendiary language aimed at inflaming passion.
“Sowing fear and apprehension in the minds of the voters will disengage them from the electoral process. The escalation of violence will lead to low voter turnout. The political leaders and actors in Edo and Ondo States have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of the voters and assure them that it is safe to go out and vote on Election Day.
“Voter turnout is a function of several factors. Prior to COVID-19, the Commission has been working assiduously to increase voter turnout in elections. The Commission is working proactively to increased voter turnout during the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections. We will intensify civic education and voter engagements in the two States.
“We expect a higher voter turnout in the Edo and Ondo Governorship election and the political parties must assist in voter mobilization and sensitization”.
According to him, “the Commission conducted the Nasarawa Central State Constituency election as a test run for the Edo and Ondo Governorship election. We focused on compliance with benchmarks for conducting elections within the context of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We monitored and drew lessons on the question of physical distancing, the use of face masks/face covering, provision of water and soap, hand-sanitizers and infrared thermometers.
“The Commission wanted to see whether the voters will take personal responsibility for their health. We wanted to know whether the political parties will cooperate with the Commission in maintaining peace at the polling units.
“We opened a result viewing portal for the election and uploaded Form EC8A for public viewing.
“For the Commission, there was a high level of compliance with the Commissions protocols and the health protocols put in place by the National Center for Disease Control and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
“We had challenges with physical distancing in some polling units. The Commission has harvested the successes, the problems and challenges and will meet to extrapolate them for the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections and make the necessary changes and adjustments before the elections.”