By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly Joint Committee on IEC, Human Rights and Constitutional Matters, has on Friday 7th May 2021, engaged the people of West Coast Region on the Election Bill 2021.
The engagement was aimed at feeling their pulses on the Election Bill 2021. The said Bill, once enacted, will be the guiding tool for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in the Gambia.
The participants said IEC should be fully funded by the government, when asked whether the Commission should receive grants and donations. They however said in the event government cannot fully finance the commission, IEC can seek or receive donations and grants from international bodies and agencies such as UN.
They also maintained that in receiving donations and grants from international bodies, the commission must not receive donations and grants from individual donors or grantors. Participants recommended that attestations be issued by an Alkalo and assisted by five elders in the community.
“The D500, 000 deposit for presidential candidates and the 40 percent threshold for a candidate to get his or her election deposit is adequate,” majority of the participants said.
However, some are of the opinion that the D500, 000 deposit for presidential candidate is minimal and should be increased to two to five million dalasi. They argued this is because elections are expensive and that the number of registered political parties has increased over the years.
On the postponement of election due to the demise of an independent candidate, they said elections should be postponed if an independent candidate dies during election as provided for in the Election Act.
“If the candidate of a registered political party dies, election should be postponed as stated in the Election Act. Equally, if an independent candidate dies, the same treatment must be accorded to him or her, so that all the candidates are treated fairly and equally,” one of the participants said.
On Diaspora registration and voting, the West Coast people said as far as they are Gambians, they should be registered so that they would participate in all elections of the Gambia.
“Voting should start at 7:00 am and close at 6:00pm. The weather changes in December and sometimes, identification of ballot boxes becomes difficult,” one of the participants said.
On transfer of voter’s card, they said it should be facilitated free of charge and that the reason for the transfer must be made explicit to the IEC officers.
On declaration of election results, they said the declaration should be made by the chairman of the IEC. But in his absence, they said the Vice Chairman should declare the results.
“This will ensure that elation results are announced on time because when the announcement is delay, it can ignite serious confusion and violence,” one of them said.
There was also call for the commission to distinguish first class citizens and second class citizens. This, to some of them, will guarantee first class citizens have the opportunity to take charge of key positions in the country, such as presidency, national assembly seats among other key positions.
They also proposed the need to hold both presidential and national assembly elections simultaneously.