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Group queries qualification of Barrow, others to contest election

Group queries qualification of Barrow, others to contest election

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By Omar Bah

A Gambian human rights group, Right To Know (R2K), has written to the head of the Independent Electoral Commission querying the qualification of President Barrow and several others to be nominated and contest the December presidential election.

The letter wrongly dated 29th September stated: “We wish to bring to your attention the issue of the political parties that have not fully met the criteria to continue to exist, being allowed to engage in political activities, which include taking part in the nomination process, by fielding candidates for the presidential election. We are very concerned by the posture taken by the IEC which seemingly appears to turn a blind eye on the blatant violations of the Election Amendment Act, particularly Section 105, by certain political parties. This section requires political parties to, among other things, hold a biennial congress (with the aim of electing a leadership structure, most notably, executive committee members).  It also calls for political parties to establish offices in the seven administrative regions of The Gambia, as well as produce a manifesto and the submission of audited accounting records. We are aware that at least three political parties are not in full compliance with these requirements, namely: Gambia Alliance for National Unity, which never held a congress, does not have an elected executive committee membership, nor has it established offices in all the administrative areas of the country, nor a manifesto; National People’s Party, which never held a congress, and does not have an elected executive committee; Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, which only has an interim executive committee, but has not presented a manifesto.  They are also now splintered into two camps, with each group claiming legitimacy. These are parties that present Sheikh Tijan Hydara, and Adama Barrow respectively, as their flag-bearers.  Their eligibility to exist as political parties is now put into question, which affects the candidature of the individuals they are proposing.

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“We would also wish to remind the IEC that in 2016, it disqualified National Democratic Action Movement and the Gambia Democratic Party, for the same infractions.  As recently as January 2019, it also triggered Section 127 of the Elections Act and issued a six-month suspension to the National Congress Party, for failing to hold a “unified congress”.  The question now arises as to why the IEC would not also show consistency and apply the rules and regulations on other parties that have also flouted the Amendment Act?  Failure to do so will grossly undermine the credibility of the institution of the election regulator, and further instil the lingering doubts in the minds of the public, and the electorate on the credibility of the December presidential polls.  The country can ill afford such a mishap. 

We are also bringing to your attention the fact that there are at least three independent candidates that have not met the residency rule, which effectively states that: “…a candidate should be ordinarily resident in The Gambia for five years immediately preceding the election”.  It is doubtful that Tamsir Jasseh, Joseph Joof, and Papa Faal have met this criterion. Finally, we wish to implore the IEC to be vigilant in its vetting process to ascertain that all candidates satisfy the requirement of the completion of a senior secondary school education, as there is a likelihood that at least one of the candidates vying for the presidency may not have satisfied this criterion.

“We request the IEC to take up its rightful role as the election regulator, and rectify these anomalies without delay, so as to ensure that the election process, and the polls in December are not only transparent, free, fair and credible, but are seen to be so by all stakeholders.”

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R2K Gambia describes itself as “a non-partisan entity that focuses on democracy and the rule of law, good governance, human rights and the principles of access to information.”

However, a source close to the IEC told The Standard that his commission is not in receipt of the said letter and that they are “not in the business of commenting on people’s opinions on the social media”.

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