By Momodou Torp
The European Union election observer mission has recommended that The Gambia should review the power of the president to appoint some members of the National Assembly and instead called for a parliament directly elected by, and accountable to the people.
This is contained in the EU election observer mission report published in September 2017.
A follow-up mission is currently in the country to assess the progress on the implementation of the 31 recommendations for improving future electoral processes contained in the 2017 report.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ocean Bay Hotel, Bakau, yesterday, Miroslav Poche, the head of the mission, said “significant strides have been made in interpreting pre-existing legislation” and that the mission “has encountered widespread consensus among interlocutors that electoral and constitutional reforms are necessary.”
A press release issued by his mission stated: “Several of the recommendations require constitutional change.
Of high priority amongst these suggested constitutional amendments is that quotas for women or other affirmative action measures could be introduced to ensure that the absent half of the population of The Gambia will be included.
At present, there are only five women among the 58 members of the National Assembly. It was also recommended that the National Assembly could be elected entirely by the people, without nominated members.
Change was also recommended to strengthen the institutional independence of the IEC and the GRTS by altering the appointment system.
“Other recommendations could be achieved through changes to legislation alone.
One of these is that, inequalities in the representation of voters might be addressed.
Constituency boundaries at present provide for vast variation in the numbers of voters per constituency, ranging from 1,980 to 46,502.
Amendment of the many aspects of Elections Act was also recommended, with reform of voter registration of high priority.
A revised voter register could be established providing citizens with timely opportunities to be included.
This is of particular significance at present, ahead of a referendum on the new constitution, given that a turnout of 50 percent of registered voters is required.”
It reaffirms the EU’s eagerness and willingness to engage in close cooperation with The Gambia with a view to the maintenance and ever-further deepening of democracy.
The follow-up mission is expected to publish its report offering a detailed analysis of the existing arrangements for elections in The Gambia as well as of the extent to which previous EU recommendations have been addressed.
From 2020, The Gambia will enter an electoral cycle that will include a constitutional referendum, presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.