Tuesday, May 11, 2021

National Assembly Joint Committee Engages IEC on Election Bill

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The national assembly joint committee on Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Human Rights and Constitutional Matters has engaged the country’s election body (IEC) on the Election Bill 2021.

The engagement was meant to seek the pulse of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Chairman of the IEC, Alieu Momar Njai, expressed utmost gratitude and appreciation to the National Assembly, especially the joint committee for the interactive session that availed them the unique opportunity to express their views on the election bill.

Njai told the joint committee that the country’s election system is worth emulation by other nations. He said election starts with voting, which is guaranteed with the acquisition of a voter’s card, saying the cards are issued transparently and are free of charge.

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“In each registration center, we post list of the registered voters therein and have a period of thirty days to make their complaints when necessary. Those without ID cards, passport and birth certificate are allowed to be given an attestation by the chief or Alkalo,” he said.

Chairman Njai called for strict observance of due process, which is a guiding tool that should be followed during election activities as enshrined in the Election Act.

Pa Makang Khan, speaking on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer, said after a vigorous review of the bill, they have observed issues such as the life span of the voter’s card, which he said was previously valid for a period of ten years.

He said they however thought it prudent to include a clause, which will extend the life span of the register, in the event they have emergencies and difficulties in conducting a new voter registration. Thus, he said they have recommended for it be amended in the bill.

Khan said in respect of nomination, the initial expectation was that the IEC would change the voting method from marbles to ballot papers. But he said the marble system of voting will be maintained as a result of the period of nomination, which would also be changed from months to weeks.

He also said there will be slight shift of time on the period for petitions and objections made during the nomination process, during which aspirants or candidates can withdraw or contest issues that affect them during the process.

“The current Election Act provides for the people to be registered in the constituencies. These are some of the challenges that we faced as we were trying to register the diaspora Gambians. They must be registered within a constituency, but it was thought prudent to pave way for them to register in any electoral division,” he said.

Khan said the bill also provides for executive members of political parties living outside to come back and participate in elections as opposed to the provisions of the current constitution which requires political party executive members to be residents in the country.

He said the provision of the bill for referendum to be passed through simple majority is not in line with the constitution.

Amul Nyassi, Co-Chairperson of the joint committee, said the bill was moved by the Justice Minister and it has gone through stages at the Assembly and was subsequently referred to the said joint committee for scrutiny, consideration and for them to report their findings back to the plenary.

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