By Alagie Manneh
According to the European Union Election Observer Mission in The Gambia, in a preliminary statement, the low voter turn-out in Thursday’s National Assembly Election may be attributed to the IEC’s failure to carry out a supplementary voter registration ahead of the National Assembly election.
The preliminary report, read by Chief Observer Mr Miroslav Poche, while declaring the actual election free and fair, said the absence of a supplementary voter registration could have possibly disenfranchised more than 16,000 people of their right to vote.
“The IEC decided not to update the voter registration ahead of the National Assembly Election and to use the same voter register with 886, 578 registered voters as during the presidential election. This decision disenfranchised those eligible voters who had turned 18-years of age between 1 December 2016 and 6 April, up to an estimated 8,000 eligible voters, or almost one percent of the total number of registered voters,” the chief observer said.
Ther statement further observed that during the 2016 presidential election polling staff and police on electoral duty were issued duty certificates allowing them to vote at their duty polling stations. “No duty certificates were issued for the National Assembly Elections. Up to 8,500 police and polling staff, representing one percent of the total number of registered voters, might have been disenfranchised.”
The EU election observer added that the IEC has not replaced any lost or destroyed voter registration cards since the last election.
“All these measures deprived a considerable number of eligible voters of the right to vote.”
The mission also used the press briefing, held at the Ocean Bay Hotel in Bakau, to criticize GDC leader Mamma Kandeh, who in the build-up to the April polls was reported to have donated items such as cement and milling machines, money to mosques and hospitals and financing boreholes.
“This appears to be in breach of the Election Act. On 29 March, EU EOM observed an Imam thanking the GDC leader for a donation and promised the village’s vote to the GDC in the Jimara constituency.”
The mission also said it detected, in the final days of the campaign, tribalism, which observers said became more prominent in the campaign narrative.
“The EU EOM observed rallies where ethnicity was exploited to mobilise political support. These included UDP appeals for the support of the Mandinka and the Manjago communities in Kanifing, in West Coast Region and in Lower River Region. The EU EOM also observed effort by the GDC to call for the votes of the Fula community in the Lower River Region.”
Madam Jean Lambert, member of the European Parliament, challenged the new law-makers, to live up to expectations.
“Now you can use the momentum created by the people of [The] Gambia to deliver the democratic change they have voted for.”
Meanwhile, the EU EOM has given a clean bill of health to the Gambia’s April polls, with the UDP winning majority in the the House.