Civil society, including pro-democracy groups, have long been at the forefront of efforts, to challenge Nigeria?s ruling party?s dominance of the government.

People?s Democratic Party, PDP, according to the group, consistently manipulated the electoral process by controlling the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. They say it pays off would-be opponents to subvert the electoral process.

The PDP denies the charge and says it encourages civil society groups to provide election  monitors.

Pro-democracy groups intensified their opposition to the government after President Umaru Yar?Adua acknowledged that the process that brought him into power was flawed.

Associations like the Transitional Monitoring Group, TMG, monitored the last election and said it fell short of internationally acceptable standards.

The associations say criticism of the PDP is an attempt to force the party to take its responsibilities seriously according to Innocent Chukwuma former chairman of the TMG.

Our objection to PDP is not personal

?It is largely a function of the disagreement we have with them about how the party which controls the government has piloted the affairs of the country over the past ten years of elected civilian government. [It?s a question of] how the party, through its policies and practices have practically closed the democratic space,"Chukwuma says.

In 1999, when the PDP assumed power, malpractices and irregularities in the electoral process were observed. However Nigerians gave the government the benefit of the doubt hoping the government structure, and the electoral process would improve.

?That has not happened,? says Mr. Chukwuma.

The ruling party on the other hand says civil society groups are taking the sides of the opposition because some of their members belong to the opposition.

According to Chukwuma PDP has dashed the hope of  Nigerians to one day freely elect their leaders.

The ruling party denies the charge that it is refusing to speed up reforms, ready to be implemented in the upcoming election next year. Officials say the government is looking into a report on how to overhaul the entire process rather than taking a piecemeal approach.

But civil society groups say the government is not sincere since it retained the right to appoint the powerful head of INEC, the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The move disappointed millions of Nigerians.
"People expected the electoral process to be much more open and transparent. But what we are seeing is a hijacking of not just the electoral process but state institutions that would have put politicians in check," Chukwuma explains.


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