Friday, December 3, 2021

PAG Observers Raise Concerns on Attempts Made by the Underaged to Register Using Alkalo / Seyfo Attestation

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By Nelson Manneh

Peace Ambassadors The Gambia (PAG) voter registration observers have on Thursday 24th June 2021 raised concerns about the unsuccessful attempts of underage registrants to register using Seyfo and Alkalo attestation.

PAG observers were instructed to immediately report any serious problems that could compromise the conduct of the voter registration exercise. During the second phase of the observation PAG received and confirmed only 18 Critical Incidents (a decrease from the 59 Critical Incidents confirmed during Phase 1). Most of the critical incidents received were centered on early closure of registration centres or IEC officials refusing to register people on the queue by 5pm as opposed to the dictates of the IEC training manual.

Peace Ambassadors-The Gambia (PAG) is a voluntary non-profit pence education and advocacy organisation operating in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. PAG non-partisan citizen observation effort for the 2021 voter registration to make the process more inclusive, transparent and accountable by enhancing participation, providing independent information on the quality of the process, and deterring potential problems.

Peace Ambassadors-The Gambia (PAG), beginning 29th May 2021 deployed 59 trained observers across the 7 Administrative Regions and 53 Constituencies of The Gambia to observe the voter registration process. This report serves as our third update and it covers the second phase of the voter registration exercise from Tuesday, 15th June 2021 to Saturday, 19th June, 2021.

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Abubacarr Sambou the president of PAG said overall, reports from PAG observers from all 53 constituencies’ show that the registration process continues to progress across the entire country and that registration officials are following most of the registration procedures. “PAG’s observer reports indicate that the IEC has improved in some aspects of its operations resulting in fewer instances of malfunctioning equipment as compared to the first week of the registration exercise. While most registration centres are opening on time, PAG observers noted that some registration officials are reporting to registration centers late and closing earlier than the stipulated time.”

He said they also observers reported that security personnel and political party’s agents continue to be deployed across the country to observe the process. “Nevertheless, as was noted in PAG’s findings during the first week of observation, registration staff appears to be inconsistently applying some of the registration procedures in some centres and enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols remains laxed.”

Methodology

PAG has deployed 59 total trained observers across the country including 6 regional coordinators one per region with Banjul and Kanifing combined having one coordinator and 53 constituency observers – one per constituency. PAG has deployed its observers in every constituency using two deployment methodologies: stationary and mobile observation. All 53 constituency observers were deployed as stationary observers for a total of nine (9) assigned days throughout the registration period from 29th May to 11th July, 2021 while all six (6) regional coordinators were deployed to observe on every day, throughout the registration period within their assigned regions where they are mobile, observing the general environment of the registration process and reporting critical incidents as they occur.

Sambou said on each observation day, every observer sent in four observation reports based on a comprehensive checklist via coded text messages using their mobile phones to the PAG’s reporting database. “These 53 constituency observers have been assigned based on the IEC 2021 Movement Plan according to the availability of IEC officials at registration centers within the constituencies. All PAG observers were accredited by the IEC and permitted to observe.”

Findings

This PAG report provides comprehensive information on reports from all PAG observers during the second phase of the voter registration observation (15 June to 19 June). PAGs 53 observers submitted 158 reports during the second reporting phase reflecting their observation at 127 unique registration centers.

“141 of our reports (89%) indicated that their observed centres opened on time, that is, between 8:00 to 8:30 am. Most of the remaining centers had opened by 9:30am.”

Registration Procedures

Similar to Phase 1 of PAGs observation, in Phase 2 PAG’s observer reports indicated that registration officials followed most of the registration procedures: All (158 of 158) reports show that all or many registrants were asked to present a valid identification document (such as national ID card, birth certificate, Gambian Passport or an attestation) before being registered.

Their report further indicated that 151 of 158 reports show that no applicant who presented a valid national identification document was denied registration. “156 of 158 reports show that applicants were asked to affix their thumbprint to the registration form to certify that their information was correct before being sent to the operator. 155 of 158 observer reports show that the operator input the data of all applicants into the laptop and their photos were taken.”

Security and Party Agents

On security and party agents PAG observers reported that many centers having uniformed security personnel and political party agents present to observe the process: 144 of 158 reports show that there were uniformed security personnel present at registration centers. 151 of 158 reports indicated one or more party agents present at the registration center.

Interim Recommendations

The overall, reports from PAG observers from all 53 constituencies show that registration is progressing across the entire country and that registration officials are following most of the registration procedures.

“It has been observed that security personnel and political party agents are being deployed across the country to observe the process. Nevertheless, it was noted by PAG observers that registration staff appear to be inconsistently applying the registration procedures in some centers and security officials are likewise inconsistent in enforcing the COVID-19 regulations.”

PAG in this regard, offers the following recommendations to help enhance the quality of the registration process:

To the IEC

PAG extends commendation to the IEC for the timely opening of the registration centres but encourages the IEC to implore all of its officials to arrive on time.

PAG encourages the IEC to employ concrete measures to address the issues of registration centres closing by 5pm or earlier when there are people still in the queue. An alternative to that is for the IEC to look at the possibility of extending the registration period to accommodate more eligible voters to be able to register.

Cautions the IEC registration staff to evenly apply the procedures and guidelines stipulated for the registration process that is in conformity with the electoral legal framework

To Security Services

Security services such as immigration and police should remain vigilant in the conduct of their services so as to keep an eye on illegal registration as well as speedily intervene during instances of violence and disruption.

To Political Parties

Admonish all political parties to adhere to the IEC regulation stipulated in its recent public statement to have only one political party agent per center and that all parties should adhere to guidelines employed by IEC officials at registration centers.

Observers at the Field

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