The secretary general of the PDOIS indicated that the results of the two by elections in the Kanifing Administrative Area revealed neck and neck with the NPP; that PDOIS won the Budung Six Junction Ward in a two-party race with the NPP without any third contestant. In the London Ward where there were six contestants PDOIS emerged second in the face of voter apathy which he said is not accounted for.
Hence the problem could be redressed. He asserted that the theory that PDOIS cannot win elections against the NPP has been proven to be false. PDOIS holds the national assembly seat for Serrekunda and has expanded its council seats to include Bundung Six Junction Ward. He said the party will support the councillors by way of training and any other means to be fit for purpose. He said the councils are reflective of direct community participation in governance. He emphasized that the councils have ward development committees and village development committees with participation of ‘kabilos’ at village level and village and community-based organisations at the ward level. Such ward and village development committees are supposed to identify the needs of their communities and share them with the council.
He emphasized that the Finance and Audit Act of the council says that 60 percent of revenue should go directly for the development of the region. He added that section 128 of the Local Government Act makes it mandatory for the state to provide 25 percent of all development expenditures of council as subvention for development of council.
He therefore noted that PDOIS councillors and national assembly members will raise their voices high for the law to be respected and implemented. He said the budget of council starts with estimates of income and expenditure which must be posted in each ward for scrutiny by the people and their opinions brought forward by the councillors to the council for the finalisation of the budget of the council which must be done no later that 30th September each year.
He said that PDOIS councillors will now raise their voice on such developments taking place such that the voice of the people will be heard. He added that it is the council that should receive appropriation for development not national assembly members in the form of constituency development fund. He said it is misappropriation of fund to allocate development fund to national assembly members when they can neither receive nor account for it in law. He pointed out that according to section 28 of the Public Finance Act only vote controllers are given warrant under section 29 to expend appropriated funds by an Appropriation Act.
He said it is the Clerk of the National Assembly who is the vote controller of the funds of the National Assembly. He said funds appropriated in the name of the National Assembly cannot be received directly by the member. The person identifies a project for the constituency and a contractor and negotiates with the clerk for payment. He argued that this is susceptible to lack of accountability since no one is there to monitor the project after completion or check its quality. Moreover no one can exclude complicity in giving a project to an enterprise that can contribute to the member’s campaign fund.
In any event, he argued, the member will claim to have brought development to the constituency by relying on funds appropriated from the taxes of the people. He said such funds will only contribute to the self-perpetuation of national assembly representation.
He noted that such funds are better placed when allocated to councils and their ward development committees while the national assembly serves as oversight.
Before concluding his war of words against the politics of patronage and inducement, the secretary general said that there are two types of governance, national and community governance, which require two types of participation by the people and two types of democracy to expand or limit their participation. He said laissez-faire formal democracy reduces participation to just voting and the voter could be induced or intimidated to vote by being given cash or kind or being threatened to be deprived of one privilege or another for not voting.
On the other hand, substantive democracy enlarges the participation of the voter to consider the benefits to be derived from voting on the basis of informed choice.
He said that the elections so far have shown a tendency to rely of laissez-faire formal democracy where all forms of inducement are utilized to determine the outcome of the vote.
He said PDOIS was established with the strategic objective of ensuring that power belongs to the people and that the sovereign wealth of the nation also belongs to the people; that the party stands for substantive democracy which thrives on raising the awareness of the people to enable them to vote for candidates who would ensure that their sovereign wealth could be utilized to eradicate, poverty, ignorance and injustice.
He said the recent by-elections open up a new chapter for PDOIS to draw the right lessons to begin a battle to uproot the politics of patronage. He said that no one can doubt the capacity of PDOIS to succeed because records have shown that in 2012 PDOIS and other opposition parties except the NRP refused to participate in the national assembly election unless there was electoral reform and further called for coalition to be built to remove the Jammeh administration if it refuses to engage in electoral reform.
He said this was the process that brought about the change and no other record is valid. He said they have the records and will now deal with the facts to dismiss many claims that are being made as to how coalition 2016 came about. He added that some are claiming that without patronage there can be no coalition building. He argued that this is a farce; that no opposition party had ever won an election in the Gambia through patronage.
He said that it is only coalition 2016 that brought about the change and that coalition faced financial difficulties half way through and had to rely on debt to complete its campaign. It had no money to bribe anyone and that any other story is false. He therefore declared that the struggle for substantive democracy prevailed over laissez-faire democracy.
He said he was elected to serve as secretary general of PDOIS but will not complete the term. He however added that he would be at the forefront of the fight for substantive democracy until the ground is fertile for substantive democracy.