The Independent National Electoral Commission on Tuesday ended months of speculations on the new guidelines for full blown political activities by releasing the revised election timetable for the 2011 general elections.
According to the new timetable, National Assembly elections will hold first on April, 2, 2011. They will be followed by the presidential election on April 9, 2011.
The process is expected to end on April 16 with the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.
The INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, read out the timetable at a news conference in Abuja.
He said the release of the timetable/election guidelines was in line with the powers conferred on the commission by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the 2010 Electoral Act and all other powers enabling the commission to perform its functions.
Other details of the election schedule show that campaigns by political parties will begin on December 1, 2010.
The party primaries will start on January 1, 2011 while the last day for the submission of forms CF001 and CF 002 (affidavit and personal particulars of candidates for all elections) is January 31, 2011.
The date for the registration of voters, pursuant to Section 9(5) of the Electoral Act (2010), has been fixed for between January 15 and 29, 2011.
Section 9(5) of the Electoral Act , provides that the exercise be carried out 90 days before polling day.
The new timetable also states the last day for the withdrawal/substitution of candidates by political parties.
For National Assembly elections, parties have up till February 14, 2011 to substitute candidates. Parties also have up till February 21, 2011 to submit nomination forms for candidates contesting the National Assembly poll.
February 21, 2011 is the last day for parties to substitute candidates for the presidential poll and February 28 for the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Electioneering is expected to end on April 1, 2011 for the National Assembly elections and April 8, 2011 for the presidential contest.
Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections have April 15 as the last day for electioneering.
Jega, who was flanked at the news conference by national commissioners of INEC, also announced that the run-off for governorship and presidential elections (if any), would be held within seven days after the announcement of the result of the affected poll.
Sections 179 (4) and (5), and Section 134 (4-5) respectively of the 1999 Constitution provide for this.
The commission had, in a timetable released on September 7, 2010 , fixed the voter registration for between November 1 and November 14.
INEC also scheduled party primaries for between September 11 and October 30. It had planned to hold the 2011 general elections in January.
But at a meeting with leaders of the 63 registered political parties on September 21, Jega said the January date was not feasible.
He had said that the commission had missed many of its timelines that were crucial to the registration of voters as well as the recruitment and training of ad-hoc staff for the elections.
At the meeting, INEC and the parties agreed that the 2010 Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution should be amended to allow for the postponement of the poll.
President Goodluck Jonathan had in October sent a bill to the National Assembly proposing amendments to sections 5, 10, 11, and 17 of the constitution (first alteration) Act and Sections 76,116, 132, and 178 of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, the amendments will extend the deadline for the conduct of the election to the end of April 2011.
The National Assembly had passed the bill, which mandated INEC to hold the general elections not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to May 29 .
In the first amendment, the commission was supposed to hold elections not earlier than 150 days and not later than 60 days before May 29.
Earlier this month, the National Assembly had forwarded the bill to the 36 state Houses of Assembly, which on Monday, said that they had approved it. (PUNCH)