By Lamin Cham
Close to a million Gambians are expected to vote in tomorrow’s presidential election.
This is the first presidential election since the departure of Yahya Jammeh, the country’s second president who lost the 2016 election.
His successor Adama Barrow, is seeking a fresh mandate and is contesting against five candidates, two of them, Essa Faal and Abdoulie Jammeh, political newcomers.
The others, Halifa Sallah of PDOIS, Ousainu Darboe of UDP and Mamma Kandeh of GDC have vied for the high office before.
The six men were nominated after a rigorous and rather controversial screening exercise by the electoral commission which rejected 15 other aspirants. Most of those rejected have since backed President Adama Barrow while two backed PDOIS and UDP respectively.
Nine hundred and sixty-two thousand one hundred and fifty-seven [962,157] potential voters have been registered in 53 electoral constituencies and 1,554 polling stations put up across the country. Each polling station will have six ballot boxes making a total of 9,324 ballot boxes.
Voting will begin at 8am and end at 5pm. However, those in queues by the stipulated closing time will be allowed to vote. As soon as voting closes the polling stations will be turned into counting centres presided over by an IEC official and witnessed by the agents of the contesting parties who would append their signature to the final results. The results would then be pasted for public viewing at polling stations.
All marbles are then put back into their respective boxes and sealed with tamper-proof binds.
After counting and signing the results sheets, the IEC officers and party agents will then head to the regional collation centre where they will join other stations in their constituency to collate the total result for that particular constituency.
Once the total result of a constituency is determined, the result sheet will be signed by the returning officer of that constituency and the constituency agents of all parties. The result of that constituency will also be signed by the regional IEC officer of that region and witnessed by party agents before it is sent to the IEC headquarters. Once the result reaches Election House it is again subjected to further vetting by the operations department before being certified for announcement by the chairman of the Electoral Commission.
Traditionally, the final declaration of results is done within 24 hours of the close of voting.
The entire process is also open to local and international observers including the media.
On the eve of election and right through night and beyond, a special monitoring base called The Situation Room is created by the civil society organisations where they would be conducting regular press briefings on their observation of the process.