By Daniel Kanu and Joe Nwankwo:

• We May Use Electronic Voting –INEC

Ahead of the official announcement on Tuesday of the next general election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has released its tentative programme and timetable for aspirants.

The programme spans May and September, a period of five months covering period of purchase and collection of expression of interest form to the period of national convention for presidential primaries slated for September 11.

The timetable, according to the party, is dependent on the outcome of the constitution review by which the National Assembly is trying to also amend the Electoral Law.

Going by the document released by the party titled “Tentative Programme and Timetable for PDP Congresses and Convention” activities are expected to begin in the middle of May, and all candidates must collect their expression of interest and nomination as well as complete and submit the forms before June 30.

Also, the aspirants are expected to be screened in July, while primary election for state houses of assembly are billed for July 17.

Other activities are the primary election for the House of Representatives to hold on July 31, while that of the Senate is fixed for August 14.

Following the Senate primary election is the governorship primaries slated for August 21, while the national convention for presidential primaries will hold on September 11.

All the dates for now, Saturday Independent gathered, are tentative, as it depends on the election INEC timetable expected to be officially released on Tuesday.

The law stipulates that presidential primaries should hold three months before the election.

Going by the feelers from the Senate, the upper chamber is in the last leg of its own work on the Constitution bill as it is presently pushing for a 120-day period, the reason INEC is banking on to hold election in January.

PDP leadership said the dates remain tentative until the outcome of the electoral laws that would determine the time gap between the period of election, litigation and swearing-in of successful candidates.

INEC said on Friday that it can only use the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for the conduct of the 2011 polls if the National Assembly passes the enabling law empowering it to do so.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja on the forthcoming national conference for stakeholders, INEC’s Deputy Secretary, Publicity and Election Observation, Steve Osemeke, stated that the use of the electronic voting machines is dear to the commission, saying that due to the fact that there has not been the enabling legislation it could not be used for now.

According to him, “the use of the electronic voting machines is dear to the hearts of most people as it remains the most credible means of conducting elections but due to the absence of the enabling law it may not be used in next year’s polls.”

“We are waiting patiently for the enactment of the enabling reforms and as soon that is in place I can assure that INEC is fully prepared to deploy these machines,” he added.

On the national conference for stakeholders slated to hold in Abuja from March 16 to 18, Osemeke stated that the preparatory conference is a follow up to the retreat held by the commission in Kaduna in August 2009 and will provide the platform for the formal presentation of its operational plan for the conduct of the 2011 general election for public view.

According to him, “the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to be the special guest of honour and is expected to declare the conference open while the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Navin Chawla, will be the special guest speaker.

“It is expected that the Indian chief election commissioner will share his country’s experience on the use of electronic voting machines and the concept of staggered elections.”

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