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Friday, January 22, 2021

Dr Ceesay warns paper ballot could throw Gambia into chaos

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By Tabora Bojang

Dr Ismaila Ceesay, presidential candidate for the Citizens’ Alliance party, has said the Independent Electoral Commission’s plan to introduce a paper ballot system in the upcoming presidential election is risky and that even a “single err or malpractice” could set the country ablaze.

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“There are massive risks surrounding the paper balloting system. You don’t introduce a new system for the first time in a high stake election and the 2021 election is a high stake election with the incumbent held bent on winning and entrenching himself, with the opposition held bent on winning it at all costs. And it would be the first election after dictatorship in a democracy, with the whole underlying dynamics, the demographic environmental distress and so on. So you don’t experiment it there because any single mistake or any single indication that there are malpractices could burn this country,” Ceesay warned.

Dr Ceesay was speaking to The Standard on the side-lines of the Citizens’ Alliance maiden congress and rally held in his native Brikama, where the party elected a new national executive to steer its affairs in the coming years.

Critics say the ballot paper could pose enormous problems given the overwhelming illiteracy rate in the country but the IEC has defended the plans, saying it is the best amid logistical and other hitches.

Dr Ceesay said given the “fragile security and political dynamics” of the country, the IEC could either conduct a simulation exercise on the new system and sensitise people about it or commence it with the local government election.

He said the risks surrounding the new system are “exacerbated by the failure of the security sector reform” and accused the government of “neglecting the reform in favour of politics.”

“We are living in a very fragile situation and it is very volatile and as we go into politics, it could even get worse. The political rhetoric is at a high. Parties don’t see eye to eye, so much hate speech, no meaningful reforms, no meaningful electoral reforms, no meaningful reconciliation, a youth population hungry, eager, passionate for change, no jobs frustrated, hopeless and they are the population in urban areas. You look at the demographic trend 60% of the population live in urban Gambia, majority youths congested no amenities. It is a ticking time bomb and our security is not equipped enough to deal with these changing dynamics, the reform has failed because there is much focus on politics. So much focus on entrenching the current government that every other thing is a back seat,” he charged.

Addressing a large crowd in Brikama on Saturday, Ceesay said a Citizens’ Alliance-led government will lift the country out of its “perennial problems of poverty, under development, inequality, lack of basic amenities, corruption, poor health and educational system among others and lead a visionary planning and development path that is home grown and depends on our home grown human and natural resources, promote good governance, social justice, cohesion, efficient security sector, and address the desperation of the young people in taking ownership of the country.”

Meanwhile, the following members have been elected as the CA national executive; Secretary General Maimuna Jallow, National President Dominic Mendy, Women President Fatou Sonko, Youth President Omar Dibba, National Mobiliser Razy Diab, Diaspora President Ali Jagne, Spokesperson Neneh Gomez, Treasurer Anthony Gomez, President for the Disable Yusupha Hydara.

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