n Journal of African Elections - Political participation and voter turnout in Nigeria's 2011 elections

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



This article explores political participation as one of the most important indicators of the democratic quality of elections and a prime criterion for defining democratic citizenship. It places specific emphasis on voter turnout as the most important form of political participation, but also as an important indicator of the state of health of any democracy, old or new, consolidated or in transition, where high voter turnout is usually associated with a healthy democracy. More specifically, the article explores voter turnout in Nigeria's 2011 general elections and the factors underlying the turnout. Following brief theoretical postulations on political participation and the history of voter turnout in Nigeria, the article analyses the turnout in 2011, reflecting on its underlying forces and spatial dimensions. It also covers generally discernible trends and notable variations across geopolitical zones. Overall, the growing deployment and influence of the social media, the electoral reform process, which boosted public trust in electoral institutions and processes, President Jonathan's oft-repeated assurances to the local and international community that he would not interfere in the electoral process, the active engagement of civil society, violence before and during elections, the north-south divide over the rotational presidency and zoning all had an impact on turnout. The findings have important policy implications for improving turnout in future elections.

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