The election season is here again, and yesterday the Electoral Commission (EC) opened its doors to receive nominations from prospective candidates ahead of the December 7 general election.
After receipt of nomination forms and the appropriate filing fees, the EC will be in a position to announce candidates whose nominations have been verified and accepted as having met the requirements.
Therefore, from October 9, this year, we will get to know who our candidates are for both the presidential and the parliamentary elections. At the moment, we do not have certified candidates, but after the deadline of submission of nomination forms for vetting and approval, the EC will officially announce the qualified candidates.
It is only then that aspirants can consider and call themselves candidates, be they on the tickets of political parties or independent.
That is why the filing of nominations, which began yesterday and ends on October 9, cannot be taken lightly.
We have some eight weeks to major elections and we need all the candidates and stakeholders to make the elections successful. That is why the process of filling nomination forms and receipt and acceptance of the forms by the election management body have always been important aspects of the electoral process that cannot be toyed with, and for which reason no political party or its candidates would ever want to take the process for granted.
Importance of the process
There are critical processes involved, and per the rules of engagement, the filled nomination forms must be presented to the EC, at best, by the candidates seeking public office.
The forms must contain important personal details about candidates which will enable the commission to satisfy itself that they meet the qualifying criteria under the laws of the country.
For instance, presidential candidates and their running mates are required by the Constitution to be citizens of the country, registered voters, at least 40 years and eligible to contest for Parliament.
In addition, they are required to swear to a statutory declaration attesting to their eligibility to stand for office and the accuracy of the details provided in the nomination forms.
Consequently, false statements made in the nomination forms have legal consequences.
Additionally, there must be four pictures, in accordance with the dimensions and specifications in the law, and the payment of filing fees, as determined by the commission.
On submission of the forms by the nominees, the EC is obliged under law to check that the facts provided on them are correct, and that the forms have been properly signed by the required number of registered voters.
In filling the forms and filing them, our political parties and candidates must be meticulous, very diligent and consider all the legalities involved, in order not to be disqualified and, by extension, take any candidate out of Election 2020.
Already, more than 15 political parties have so far picked up codes/password to download the forms and many more are hoping to do so before the deadline of October 9. But it must be pointed out that there is a sharp distinction between picking or downloading the forms and submitting same to the commission for verification and approval. Picking or downloading forms alone does not guarantee that one is contesting the crucial elections.
It is recalled that in the 2016 elections, the EC almost disqualified a number of prospective presidential candidates based on their inability to satisfy some aspects of the regulations that the commission set, but for the timely Supreme Court ruling that gave them a window of opportunity.
That is why, this time around, I expect all political parties and actors who are currently out there canvassing for votes to spend quality time to do the needful. You cannot submit false information to the EC and then turn around to blame it for any disqualification.
It is of utmost importance that all prospective candidates take this process seriously to avoid the bitter experiences of 2016.