Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Justice Minister Apologizes for Error in Elections Bill 2021


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By: Kebba AF Touray 

The Gambia’s Justice Minister, Dawda A Jallow, has on Monday 29th March 2021, apologized to lawmakers for an error inserted in the elections bill 2021 by staff of the judiciary.

Minister Jallow made the apology while moving the bill for the second reading.

“Honorable Speaker the error is caused by one of our staff lifting the scheduled attached to the current electoral bill as printed in the laws of the Gambia 2009. So the person just lifted it form there and attached it to the bill,” he said.

“It is not in any way an attempt by the government to change the constituency boundaries. In fact, constituency boundaries as stipulated are not to be changed by the executive and we do not have that mandate. It was an advertent error and we apologize for that.”

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“The Bill seeks to repeal the Elections Act Cap 301 and to enact a new elections Act in line with the best practices to achieve the cardinal principles of free and fair elections in the Gambia,” he said.

Minister Jallow said this in cognizance of the fact that electoral laws conform to the need and aspirations of the electorate in a true democratic society, for the full participation of all eligible citizens through casting of votes.

He said it also seeks to introduce a detail procedure and analysis in the obligation of the final results by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission after the conduct of a particular election or referendum, and during the declaration of results, the criteria for the analysis for the result are provided for in the bill.

Jallow indicated to the assembly that the schedule attached to the bill 2021, on the binding copy that was first circulated to the assembly is an error and has been corrected by providing the corrected version.

Ousman Sillah, Member for Banjul North, hailed the mover for coming up with the bill. He explained that he had anticipated that fundamental changes such as the inclusion of the second round of voting, term limit will be captured in the bill. He however said the bill does not contain those components of the electoral procedure.

Sillah said the rates for airtime given to the candidates should be affordable and equal in order to ensure that candidates who may not have the adequate resources are able to pay for such airtime, to convey their messages to the masses.

Kebba Jallow, Member for Jarra Central, said the announcement of two different elections result in 2016 has nearly plundered the country in a chaotic situation. Thus, he said, the new bill coming up with detail procedure and analysis in publication of results is the portion he admires the most.

Jallow said the 2016 errors in the declarations of election results will not reoccur.

Sunkary Badgie, Member for Foni Brefet, welcomed the bill and said it will promote participation in determining how the country is run. Badgie cautioned the selection criteria for Gambians living in the diaspora and the selection of countries that will be given the opportunity to vote needs to be critically looked into.

Suwaibou Touray, Member for Wuli East said: “Genuine Electoral system should have come after the constitutional reform so that the constitution spells out all the key issues that will help us to improve our way of expressing our desires through elections.”

He said he has read the objects and reasons of the bill, but he is of the view that the bill has fallen short of what is actually required in the change to bring about a good electoral system.

He said: “The objectives of electoral reforms are to make elections less expensive, less corrupt, more responsive and much fairer. So if we are scrutinizing this, bill that is what we should look for to see whether it is fair for everybody, to change the electoral practices especially the ones that conflict with the constitutional principles.”

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