January 26, (THEWILL) – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has directed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to conduct a fresh primary election in Abia State within 14 days, following the death of its governorship candidate, Prof. Uchenna Ikonne.
THEWILL reports that the governorship candidate for the March 11 governorship election in Abia state, Prof. Ikonne died on Wednesday, at the National Hospital, Abuja.
In a chat with newsmen on the development, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, noted that since the election is still a month away, the PDP has the window to conduct a fresh primary election within 14 days of Ikonne’s death.
Citing the 2022 Electoral Act, Okoye said “if the candidate dies when polls have commenced, section 34(3)(b) of the Act provides that the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is clear, unambiguous, and unequivocal that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate, whose name has been submitted to the Commission under section 29 of the Electoral Act except in the case of death or withdrawal.
“Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.
“The period, slated in the timetable and schedule of activities for the withdrawal of candidates has lapsed. In the said timetable, the last day for withdrawal by governorship and State Assembly candidates was August 12, 2022.
“Moreover, section 31 of the Act makes it clear that a candidate can only withdraw his or her candidature by notice in writing submitted to the political party that nominated him and such must be conveyed to the political party not later than 90 days to election.”
He added that “The case in hand is different from the issue of withdrawal of candidates. The issue at hand is death and the candidate died when the period of election is still a month away. The Electoral Act permits the party that nominated him to conduct fresh primaries for the purpose of replacing him.
“If they fail to conduct fresh primaries within 14 days of the death of the candidate, they will not have a candidate in the election. The situation is different if the candidate dies just when polls are about to commence but has not commenced.
“In such instances, the Chief Electoral Commissioner, being satisfied of the death, can countermand the poll and appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.
“However, If the candidate dies when polls have commenced, section 34(3)(b) of the Act provides that the running mate shall continue with the election and nominate a new running mate.
“Section 34(3)(b) of the Act does not apply in this instance. The operative provision herein is section 33 of the Act since the period for the conduct of polls is still almost a month away.”