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Disputed Elections and the Role of the Court in Emerging Democracies in Africa: The Nigerian Example

by J. Tochukwu Omenma; Ike E. Onyishi

The paper deals with a set of substantively important questions for Africa’s ongoing democratization. In a narrow sense, what role are courts playing in the process of intervening in electoral dispute, as it is related to fraud, official misconducts, and violence? More broadly, how is the involvement of courts in those disputes influencing the broader democratization process? After examining relevant data from Nigeria’s elections since 1999, data indicate that out of hundreds of disputed gubernatorial election results, only 6.3% success were recorded in court. The paper arrived at two conclusions: first, courts in Nigeria are failing to adequately address electoral disputes because the legal burden of proof required of petitioners is too demanding to be effective. Second, the inaction of courts enable incumbents to consistently retain power, thereby negating the principle of consolidation of democracy. Thus, the court is failing to play a role in promoting democratic consolidation. Reasonably valid quantitative measures exist for each of the factors. Data sources consisted of governmental documents, data from international election observers and other research.

 

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