Taking back our democracy? The trials and travails of Nigerian elections since 1999

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After decades of military rule, Nigeria finally returned to 'elected' civilian rule in 1999. However, this paper raises critical questions about the quality and depth of the resulting democracy in Nigeria by examining successive elections in 2003 and 2007. It suggests that since the transition elections of 1999, a post-military political elite has subverted democracy and has removed electoral power from the Nigerian people through a host of devices, including the manipulation of electoral processes, political institutions, and security agencies. In spite of reports by local monitors and international election observers regarding the flawed nature of both post-1999 elections, the response of the international community has ranged between symbolic and feeble protests to an ambivalent stand, to open tolerance of such 'elected dictatorships'. In conclusion, the paper sums up the factors behind the crisis of electoral democracy in Nigeria, its implications, and the prospects of Nigerians effectively organizing to win back the right to choose their political representatives and leaders.

Keywords: Nigeria; democracy; elections; opposition; votes

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2011.553359

Affiliations: The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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