By Omar Bah
The Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Coalition on election-The Gambia has said that low voter turnout, campaigning and canvassing door-to-door on polling day of the parliamentary election were among the few things that affected the polls.
The CSOs also alleged that in some instances, party agents were found to be wearing party colors, some polling booths were found to be dark and inadequately lit.
“The materials used for the polling booth in some places were transparent, compromising the secrecy of the ballots. In some instances, party agents were found to be wearing party colors, instructions on how to vote was pasted and codes polling stations were not pasted outside in most polling stations,” the statement issued by CSOs revealed.
The group also highlighted that during their observation in many polling stations, police officers were present inside the polling stations and voters alleged to be non-Gambians were stopped from voting.
They recommended for the empowerment of the NCCE to efficiently and effectively conduct civic education nationwide on a continuous basis.
“Gambia belongs to all its citizens, therefore, creating racial divide or promoting disharmony on grounds of religion, race or ethnicity is dangerous for our peaceful co-existence. Therefore, the CSOs coalition on elections recommends civic education and advocacy for adherence to section 91 of the elections Act,” the statement read.
The group also re-echoed recommendations made in the previous election regarding the political participation and representation of women.
“As a signatory to regional and international instruments that seek to promote the equality between men and women, we reiterate that a national legislation establishes gender quotas in politics that allocate a percentage of nominations for women election to representative bodies, as well as gain election to power and decision-making structures within political parties.
The group also recommended for the IEC to draft a legislation to impose penalties for violations of section 91/92 (Election campaign ethics) and section 70 (Prohibitions on polling day).
It is also advised political parties to raise awareness among their supporters and agents as to their obligations and responsibility on polling day, by letting them know that the IEC is the only body mandated to prevent anybody from voting according to the Elections Act.
“IEC should ensure that non accredited persons are not allowed to loiter around polling stations after voting as stipulated in the election act. In light of the above observations, the CSOs Coalition on elections is of the opinion that the national assembly election on April 6th, 2017 was generally transparent, free and fair,” the message concluded.