By Omar Bah
The coalition of Civic Society Organizations on elections-The Gambia, spearheaded and coordinated by the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) have declared last week’s council elections as free and fair despite some minor irregularities.
Delivering the CSOs’ joint preliminary statement at the Paradise Suites Hotel on Friday, Anna Jones the National Network Coordinator, WANEP – The Gambia said the voting process was observed to be generally peaceful and orderly.
Reading further, Jones said the CSO Coalition-The Gambia is of the opinion that the elections were free, fair and transparent.
“There were no significant anomalies of malpractices by the political parties, candidates, their supporters or the IEC to impugn the credibility and legitimacy of the vote.
“We certify that the results reflect the will of the electorate. We, however, note that elections in the Gambia could still be further improved,” she said.
She said on polling day, 150 observers were deployed nationwide to observe the opening, voting, closing and counting processes in the 118 wards contested.
The WANEP national coordinator highlighted that voter education continues to be limited generally hence affecting popular participation in elections, the incidence of hate speech, incitement to violence, gender stereotyping and tribal narratives were observed in many instances during the campaign, saying that use of public resources, incidents of violence were recorded between supporters of the UDP and APRC in Talinding.
She said there is need for the sensitization of citizens on the importance of elections in the overall good governance and development, voter registration should be a regular and consistent and continue civic education to that effect, political leaders and candidates should serve as role models, CSO should increase their participation in the electoral process to promote citizen engagement, the need for donors and development partners to engage in a timely and sustainable manner to support electoral process in the Gambia.
“The unfair use of public resources by political actors must be discouraged and discarded, IEC must ensure that it continuously improves the positioning of polling centres and booths in order to ensure easy and direct access by persons with disability, IEC must enforce its code of campaign and there is need for the Inspector General of police to effectively and adequate security during political campaigns to prevent violence,” she concluded.