By Sarjo Camara-Singateh
The Independent Electoral Commission Chairman, Mr. Alieu Momar Njai has indicated to Foroyaa that his institution’s level of preparedness and cooperation with the political parties and other stakeholders is booming and kicking well.
He stated that all the logistics are in place, the materials from overseas have already arrived, the security officers are complying and by next Monday all the duty officers will be in their various deployment posts in all the districts. He disclosed this information to Foroyaa in an interview in his office on 22 November 2016.
Mr. Njie said on Saturday and Sunday, they (IEC) had training of trainers for 170 (AROs) Assistant Returning Officers who will go to their various districts to have step down training, with other IEC personnel. “We have to deploy 7000 people including presiding officers, assistant presiding officers, polling officers and assistant polling officers”. Every day we sit here to reconcile their local itineraries until 11:pm before we go home.
He indicated that they are still monitoring the campaign trail to know how the parties are doing with their itineraries, he further stated that at the administrative levels the smaller campaign teams acquire permits from the regional level to ensure smooth running of their campaign on the ground without any clash.
He said there has been no complaint so far, they are of the belief that they can handle any issue that comes their way. “We all pray that the peacefulness that The Gambia is known for is maintained. People are free to vote for the candidate of their choice”.
On accreditation of international observers, he confirmed that European Union, African Union, other observer groups, and international media like South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, Aljazeera, Deutsche Wella are coming; but he said that nothing has been heard from ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) yet. The level of participation of the EU is not evident from the interview.
He was asked about the challenges ahead of him during this election period, he said they ensure that the tranquility, fairness and transparency are the dictates of the electoral process in the Gambia; that the system is such that nobody can rig the ballot at the end of the election; that everything is done in broad daylight, in the presence of party agents.
He was asked whether spot counting is going to hold and he said, “Yes, it will hold. We have 1422 polling stations, all the parties know the number of the polling stations and how many people will vote there. Before the start of the polls, the drums will be sealed in the presence of all the party agents, the party agents will take the drums to the polling booth. They (the parties) are now canvassing freely without any hindrance”.
He also allayed the fears of the people by asserting that collation /tallying centres are going to be transparent and free; that all the party agents will come with their results to compare with the district level before final announcement of results which he presumed would be at 6: pm. He asserted that as the returning officer he would be the last person to know the overall winner. He stated that the collation would be conducted differently from how it was done before when all the drums were collected together before counting.
Regarding the use of the marble to cast one’s ballot in The Gambia, the Chairman said the marble system has been here since day one when literacy was very low and now people are educated. He added that it is a matter of time and the IEC may change to use ballot papers because for example if we have more contestants it will increase the number of drums needed, so the ballot papers are much more affordable.
He said moving to ballot paper would first require a policy and law in place to enable the Independent Electoral Commission to switch to ballot papers.