Gambian opposition parties have raised their issues of concern to the country’s electoral authorities with regards to protecting the integrity of polls ahead of the December 1 presidential elections.
Held at the election house by the Independent Electoral Commission on Tuesday, the meeting gave both authorities and political parties the opportunity to dialogue over issues and to reach a common understanding in ensuring free and fair elections.
Members from all opposition parties including a representative of Dr Isatou Touray, an independent candidate, have raised concerns over alleged “voter intimidation by security forces and regional and village authorities” who are supporting the ruling government.
They have also asked the IEC to ensure equal air time on national TV and radio for all parties, ensure the incumbent does not “abuse” its powers and also make sure that people who are “not citizens” do not vote, as it is often alleged.
The Gambian electoral calendar is already out but the incumbent and the opposition parties are in dispute over the issue of reforms
Last year, the IEC made an amendment to the electoral law that opposition severely criticized as pro-ruling party.
However, the IEC chairman promised all parties that the integrity of polls in the country will be ensured and that the “process will be 100% free, fair and transparent”.
“The Independent Electoral Commission believes that an election without integrity subverts the purpose of a democratic election, and cannot be considered fair and equitable. The IEC will ever concentrate on conducting free and fair elections,” the IEC chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, assured political parties.
Njai also enjoined political parties to ensure that they refrain from violence and also do their obligations towards ensuring that the process is free, fair and transparent.
“A free election on one hand depends on freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement, and freedom from fear,” he explained.
“A fair election on the other hand depends on transparent electoral process, equitable electoral legislation and systems, equal opportunities for all participants, an independent and impartial elections commission, and absence of intimidation, proper procedures, an acceptance of the electoral results. Therefore, I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to avoid violence of any sort and make this election violent free.”
All Gambian opposition parties were present at the meeting and their representatives were allowed to ask questions on areas of their concern and also make contribution on what they think should change.
NCP’s Lamin Bojang has told the gathering that he is over 90% impressed with the preparatory level of the electoral authorities, a compliment that was greeted with applause.
Meanwhile, the representative of the female independent candidate for presidency, has brought a complain of an allege attempt to intimidate them by an unnamed person who reportedly cautioned Dr Isatou Touray to be mindful not to be associated with anything that could be deemed a “national threat”.
“The IEC will have to define for the people who are going to be engaged in the political arena what is a ‘national threat’ in the context of 2016 elections… Already, some high profile people who have been known to be security people and are associated with the government are putting out messages in form of advice to Dr Isatou Touray that she should not engage in issues that are of national threat…,” Amie Bojang said without revealing the identity of the person in question.
“We are taking this very seriously and we want to make it clear that nobody is going to intimidate us in this campaign. That is why we want to have a clear definition as to what will constitute a national threat so that we will be guided by the laws.”
Though The Torch could not confirm who the subject of Amie’s accusation was but Samsideen Sarr, Gambia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations did write an open letter to Dr Touray published on The Gambia Inquirer in which he appeared to be advising her not to run for presidency.
Read the opinion piece by clicking the story link: http://thegambiainquirer.com/2016/09/05/advice-new-gambian-presidential-candidate-dr-isatou-touray/
However, the IEC chairman informed Bojang that defining what constitute a “national threat” falls outside their mandate as electoral authorities.
The Independent Electoral Commission has announced a 13-day campaign period, 16 to 29 November, for political parties and their respective candidates who will be vying for the country’s top office.
The number of campaign days has seen an improvement of 2 from the 2011 presidential elections when candidates were given 11 days to campaign across the over 11 000 square kilometers country.
The Gambia is a multiparty democracy with nine political parties and 2 independent candidates, though some parties might form a coalition ahead of elections.
The electoral authorities revealed the nomination for the party’s presidential candidates will be held on Monday 7 to 10 November from 8 to 4 pm at the IEC headquarters and the nomination papers can be collected at the IEC office from October 3.
The nomination process will allow the electoral authorities to vet various party candidates as to whether they are qualified or not according to the country’s electoral laws.
All qualified candidates will pay a registration fee of D500 000 ($21, 173).