Religion and Other Factors in Nigeria’s Pre-electoral Opposition Coalition Strategies

Dr. Iche Ugwe is currently a Visiting Fellow at the LSE in the U.K. He also follows the Opposition International blog. We take the opportunity to repost remarks from his recent piece on the upcoming 2023 election in the Premium Times of Nigeria, an influential media organ.

Opposition International particularly recommends Iche’s nuanced take on the pre-electoral coalition strategies in play. They may prove the surprise determinants of the outcome‘s winners and losers.

Iche writes of the success of the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, in fashioning a pre-electoral coalition. Religion has played a cohesive agent among opposition parties.

…to the surprise of many, the ruling party went ahead to announce a Muslim-Muslim ticket which sparked stiff opposition, even within its own fold. Many Christian leaders voiced disapproval against the decision, and others quietly started mobilising support for the opposition. As the only Christian among the three top contenders for the Presidency, Mr Peter Obi may benefit massively from block votes from Christians nationwide. Going by available statistics, that could be huge.”

Nigeria, Malaysia, and other heterogeneous states prove the importance of planning a coalition strategy, and conscientiously following it.

Among the world’s experts is Professor Leonard Ong, National University of Singapore, who recently put the meat on the bones in a 2021 review article, including an incisive bibliography.

What are we voting for? Opposition alliance joint campaigns in electoral autocracies

Volume 28, Issue 5

Elvin Ong all authors and affiliations

Here is his abstract which if put in layperson’s argot would command attention at any strategy table discussion.

“Existing analyses of opposition pre-electoral alliance formation in electoral autocracies neglect their coordinated election campaigns against incumbent autocrats. This paper argues that opposition alliance joint campaigns can increase the salience of the anti-regime cleavage, signal mutual compromise, and highlight the positive material and policy gains voters will reap following regime defeat. Together, they persuade ideologically and ethnically disparate opposition supporters to engage in the cross-party strategic voting necessary to maximize opposition vote share and their chances of winning. Empirical findings from Malaysia’s historic 2018 general elections support the theory’s propositions. A pre-electoral survey experiment estimates that an opposition alliance’s joint campaigns increases cross-party strategic voting by about 10 percentage points among opposition voters. Field interviews and ethnographic observation during the election campaigning revealed the diverse methods and mechanisms of joint campaigns. Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance eventually prevailed through a combination of joint campaigning against a flailing incumbent.”

Opposition International has experts on call who can provide engaging sessions for party strategy managers.

Uche Igwe is a Visiting Fellow at Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He can be reached on