Violence and Votes in Nigeria: The Dominance of Incumbents in the Use of Violence to Rig Elections

Hakeem Onapajo


Which party uses violence to influence election outcomes? There are two existing perspectives that have offered responses to this critical question. One is a more popular position indicating that the incumbent party, more than the opposition party, makes use of violence with the aim of rigging elections; the other is a more radical perspective that suggests that electoral violence is more associated with the weakest party than with the incumbent. This paper seeks to contribute to the ongoing debate and to advance the argument suggesting the dominance of the incumbent in the use of violence to rig elections. With evidence sourced from well-trusted reports from independent election monitors, this paper shows with case studies from Nigeria at different electoral periods that, in terms of influencing election outcomes, the incumbent has been more associated with violence during elections than the opposition. It is further argued in the paper that the existing nature of executive power in Nigeria provides a plausible explanation for the incumbent’s violence during elections.

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