“TO SAY THAT OPPOSITION TALKS  SUFFER BLOW IS ANHalifa 5 OVERSTATEMENT” states Halifa Sallah of PDOIS 17th March 2015 The information you gathered from the Press Release issued by an Organisation called CORDEG, which had restricted circulation in theOnline papers and PDOIS’ response, has not captured the letter and spirit of the meeting of the Opposition aimed at formulating proposals for electoral reform. Electoral reform is in the interest of all political parties and the public at large since the aim is to hold free, fair and genuine elections in the Gambia which are deemed credible by all observers. Hence no opposition party could withhold signature to a document which is prepared in common by all to promote electoral reform. In this vein, the concluding remarks purportedly made by an opposition insider in your article that if Halifa and  PDOIS continue to hold out the other opposition parties would continue the negotiation and possibly form a coalition is without foundation and amounts to a mere exercise in fiction writing.  PDOIS is in fact playing an instrumental role in the negotiation for electoral reform and no one who understands how those proposals are being prepared would imply that PDOIS is holding out or could be sidelined. The contradiction between the participants is about confidentiality and not about content of the reform proposals.  Needless to say , the discussions are characterised by maturity and mutual respect as befit those who aim to lead a nation. It is also important to point out that the negotiation is about electoral reform and not about forming a coalition. Hence there is no room for controversy or failure in reaching an agreement. We therefore wonder why the so-called opposition insider decided to invent that PDOIS is posing obstacles to reaching an agreement on proposals for electoral reform  when PDOIS leaders are among those who displayed the highest level of devotion and are among those who are central in the preparation  of the document . It is also curious that the so-called insider is talking about coalition. At the moment there is no discussion about a coalition because the time for that has not arrived. Organised political parties do not form coalitions by word of mouth. All agreements between political parties must be put in writing and are signed by authorised  signatories. Even the setting up of an interparty committee was premised on a memorandum of understanding signed by all parties. Hence, at this moment what is expected of credible opposition parties is to hold party congress and formulate policies on when alliances would be necessary and which form of alliances would be acceptable to each party. PDOIS is the only party which has formulated proposals on  how a United Front could be built which is to be submitted to a congress so that it could form part of the PDOIS Manifesto for the 2016 -2018 electoral cycle. We have already proposed in Agenda 2016 that all parties should pursue electoral reform so that the second round of voting would be restored.In order to ensure that the incumbent is deprived of more than 50 percent majority, we propose that all parties should go on the ground to extend their political influence so that they could share among themselves more than 50 percent of the votes on the ground. In this way, the opposition candidate who would have had the largest number of votes to go for the second round would get the support of all the other opposition parties. This is PDOIS’ first proposal. Secondly, we have left room for the possibility of not having the electoral reform desired. In that case the whole world would be convinced that  the incumbent is afraid to submit his mandate to the rigors of genuine elections. In that case , PDOIS proposes for the opposition to meet and select one credible candidate  to run a transitional government if elected with the support of all. To ensure that a credible candidate is selected PDOIS proposes that the political parties should select their candidates and expose them to the electorate and when it becomes necessary to form a united front the party candidates as well as  the Independent candidates could join a caravan  to tour the country before any negotiation so that the public appeal of each candidate could be assessed. We hope the opposition insider would now come in the open to state the proposals his or her party has for building a coalition. If he/she fails to do so the general public should classify him among those people who spread rumours of the formation of a coalition to justify political inactivity and always cast an accusing finger at some scapegoat when they are failing in their schemes to mislead public opinion. To conclude we hope the general public would form opinions on political Parties and personalities based on their policies and actions and not on the allegations made by those who wish to cover unpleasant facts with distortions to try to isolate those who do not fit in their scheme of things. Halifa Sallah PDOIS In its edition of Tuesday 17 March 2015 The Standard published the following story: OPPOSITION TALKS SUFFER BLOW The ongoing talks among six opposition political parties in The Gambia, known as the Group of Six, have suffered a setback, after two months of closed-door negotiations. The opposition PPP, UDP, PDOIS, GMC, GPDP, and NRP had agreed to meet on March 7 to schedule to date for the signing of the document that entails their electoral reform proposal, which they intend to push forward ahead of the 2016 elections. However, PDOIS party had refused to reach agreement, pending clarification from PPP and UDP leaders, who had purportedly had a separate but similar arrangement with an abroad-based Gambian civil society organisation, Committee for Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia, CORDEG. “We have tried to reach Mr Darboe [UDP leader] by phone to request for postponement of the meeting scheduled for Saturday March 7, until we get clarity on statements issued in CORDEG’s press release,” Halifa confirmed writing to other parties in a reaction published by online newspapers last Wednesday. CORDEG, in its press release, said the group had on February 23, ‘brainstormed’ and ‘agreed’ with representatives of PPP, UDP and PDOIS on need for electoral reforms and a united opposition front. However, PDIOS denies participating in the meeting, clarifying that the party’s alleged representative, Malick Kah, of their chapter in Europe, ‘had no mandate to represent PDOIS.’ Halifa added: “…if the two opposition party leaders had indeed entered into a venture with CORDEG to jointly design a comprehensive advocacy strategy to address a dead lock on electoral reform as mentioned in the release, then their act would constitute a breach of confidentiality.” In a text message sent to Halifa following his request for postponement, Mr Ousainou Darboe, the UDP leader cautioned Halifa against going public with information on the negotiation. “I request you not mention how far we have gone with the negotiations on the electoral reform. Any statement on this should be made by all parties that have been attending the meetings and not by PDOIS alone whatever its views may be on the meeting,” Halifa leaked in his reaction published on Maafanta. And, in response to Darboe’s request, Halifa lamented the failure of the PPP and UDP leaders to clarify ‘the wrong notion given to the public by CORDEG’. “In that regard,” Halifa argued, “we will not hesitate to tell the whole world that a comprehensive programmatic document on electoral and constitutional reform has been prepared and is ready for signature. At least, we can say this much and not go into the details. This is the first point. Secondly, we have decided to put our advocacy strategy in the public domain to distance ourselves from the agreement of the two leaders with CORDEG.” Meanwhile, opposition leaders are still tight-lipped over the issue and efforts made by this paper to have comments from them on the issue were unsuccessful. However, an opposition insider told The Standard that if Halifa and his PDOIS continue to hold out, the other parties would continue the negotiation and possibly form a coalition.]]>