Votes, Violence and Validity: Our Understanding of Nigeria's 2023 Sub-National Elections
On 18 March, following a one-week delay by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enable it to comply with a Court of Appeal judgement, Nigerians returned to the polls to cast their ballots in governorship and state house of assembly elections. Voters in 28 states had the chance to elect new, or re-elect existing, governors in the March 18th 2023 vote, with the remaining eight states operating off-cycle processes, three of which are scheduled to take place later this year. This report provides analysis of the conduct of the polls, offers some initial reflection on the drivers behind the outcomes announced so far and discusses what implications the process and results might have for democracy and development in the country. Despite INECs improved performance during these elections, the perceptible questionable credibility of the conduct of presidential and National Assembly polls in the minds of many voters has shaped how Nigerians viewed the 18 March process and their engagement in it. The first section discusses the improved performance of key institutions, but also notes how their conduct during the 25 February presidential and National Assembly impacted on perceptions around this performance, identifies the different violent tactics used to disrupt voting in many local government areas (LGAs) across the country and the increased prominence of vote trading by all political party agents. The second section provides some brief reflection and analysis on the outcomes and projections from the elections that have been concluded so far. This analysis informs the final section which explores the potential implications of the electoral outcomes for democracy and development at-large in the country.