Did you know that you may have to vote two or three times for your candidate of choice in the February presidential election? Did you know that one of the two candidates with the highest number of votes may not participate in the possible rerun if they do not have the needed national spread? There are many more questions about a possible rerun in the 2023 election.
To avoid misinformation and disinformation should a rerun become necessary, we have answered all frequently asked questions about the process.
Background: Experts predict a run-off
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, a delegation of US-based National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute (NDI/IRI) in July 2022, said the 2023 presidential election might go into a run-off following the emergence of Peter Obi as the Labour Party flagbearer and Rabiu Kwankwaso as the candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
The delegation, which was led by the Secretary of State for Ohio, Frank LaRose, said in Abuja that the 2023 general elections would be a departure from some of the political dynamics that influenced previous elections in the country.
While the Peoples Democratic Party says its candidate will win the election on the first ballot, some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have predicted that the election may have to go into a run-off. The Labour Party says it is prepared for a run-off.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also said it is prepared for a run-off, following projections within the polity. Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman (INEC), Information and Voter Education Committee, said in November 2022 the commission is planning to print double the amount of ballot papers needed for the presidential election.
Nigeria’s presidential elections have never gone into run-offs.
Now, what is a run-off Election?
A run-off election is a second election held to determine a winner when no candidate in the first election meets the required threshold for victory. Run-off elections can be held for both primary elections and general elections.
What’s the threshold for victory in Nigeria’s presidential election?
Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution as amended outlines what needs to be done for a winner to be declared. For the 2023 elections, where there are 18 candidates, a winner shall be declared if the candidate has “the highest number of votes cast at the election; and in addition, secure not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
In simpler terms, the winner must have the highest number of votes, and 25 percent of votes cast in 24 of 36 states, and the FCT.
What happens if a candidate gets the highest number of votes but does not have 25% of votes in 24 states and FCT?
The candidate will not be declared the winner. A second election, known as a run-off will be conducted.
Will all 18 candidates will contest again?
No. The run-off will not be for all the candidates. Only two candidates will participate in the second presidential election.
The two candidates with the highest number of votes?
Not necessarily. We understand that this may sound very unconventional, but the constitution is pretty clear about it. The candidate with the highest number of votes and the candidate with the biggest national spread will participate in the run-off.
Let’s review some scenarios.
First Scenario: Consider Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C as the three top contenders for the 2023 presidential election. When voting is done, Mr. A secured 18 million votes but does not have at least 25% of votes in 24 states, and the FCT, Mr. B secured 16 million votes, winning in 12 states. Mr. C polled 14 million votes but won the 19 or more states with a smaller amount of voters.
The two candidates for the run-off will be Mr. A and Mr. C. They had the “highest number of votes” and had “a majority of votes in the highest number of States”. Mr. B, who had two million more votes than Mr. C will not participate in the run-off.
Second Scenario: Consider that Mr. A had 16 million votes but did not get at least 25% in 24 states and the FCT. In the same scenario, Mr. B had 14 million votes and majority votes in more states than Mr. C, who also had 14 million votes.
The run-off will be between Mr. A and Mr. B. It would not matter that Mr. B and C had the same number of votes. As long as Mr. B had more national spread, he will be chosen for the run-off — as the constitution stipulates.
How is a winner determined at the run-off?
According to the constitution, a candidate shall be deemed to be elected into the office of the President in a rerun election if: a) He has the majority of votes cast at the election and b) Has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In simpler terms, the winner will be the candidate who had the highest number of votes and 25 percent of votes cast in 24 states and the FCT.
What if none of the two candidates meets the threshold?
This is very unlikely, but the constitution anticipates the possibility. If this happens, then a third election will be conducted. The winner in this election will be the candidate with the highest number of votes only.
When will all these elections be held?
If a third election becomes necessary, it will also be held seven days after the results of the second elections were announced.
The presidential election is set for Feb 25, 2022. After the first election, if the results show that none of the candidates has met the threshold to be declared president, then a second election will be held seven days after the announcement of the results of the first election.