By Omar Bah
Gambia Participates has reported alleged incidents of harassment and intimidation of voters in last Saturday’s parliamentary elections.
Addressing journalists on what his organisation observed during the elections, executive director Marr Nyang said incidents of harassment and intimidation of voters were recorded in 6% of the polling stations observed by his team while polling officials were intimidated, harassed or assaulted at 4% of polling stations.
“In 4% of polling stations, women were particularly affected by incidents of intimidation, harassment or violence (this includes women as voters, polling officials, security, party agents or observers). A suspected State Intelligence Service agent was seen taking snapshots of voters around the polling station in Munyagen Health Centre in Jokadu at about 1:45pm. This act provoked a negative reaction from UDP voters who felt violated and intimidated. Chaos broke out which delayed the voting process,” he said.
He said persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers and the sick were given priority to vote before others in most of the observed polling stations. Nyang said some polling stations observed were not set up in locations that are accessible to persons with disabilities.
He said in 2% of polling stations, observers reported that party agents attempted to influence polling officials.
“In a handful of polling stations, people were seen canvassing for votes. In Bakau New Town Lower Basic School, a man from the NPP entourage attempted to influence two women to vote for the NPP candidate, but he was stopped by people in the polling station,” he noted.
He said the decision by the IEC presiding officer to allow a UDP candidate into the voting area to observe the set-up of the ballot drums created chaos in the polling after the NPP supporters expressed disappointment over the decision which later led to verbal assaults and disruption of the voting process.
“The voting process was suspended for a short time in Katamina polling station in Niamina West when the NUP candidate raised a complaint that his party’s colour was not reflected on the ballot drum. He alleged that the IEC presented a black and white ballot drum,” he said.
In a related development, Elections Watch Committee reported that quarrels were observed at some polling stations.
“For example, at a polling station in Brikama, party agents representing GDP, NPP, UDP and an independent candidate demanded the count of the tokens before opening. This delayed the opening time by one hour. In another polling station in the Kanifing administrative area, a UDP party agent again demanded the count of the ballot tokens before voting began. This delayed the start of the voting process. At another polling station located in Lower Niumi, party agents demanded a count of the tokens delaying the opening for 30 minutes.”
EWC, which deployed hundreds of observers to monitor the electoral process, said other critical incidents included campaigning near polling stations. “At a polling station in Banjul South, NPP supporters were seen campaigning at the NPP political bureau located opposite the polling station which was upsetting voters. IEC officials however, later ordered the closure of the bureau to restore calm. At another, an NPP vehicle was seen transporting elderly voters in the Kanifing administrative area which resulted in tension but was later resolved by the intervention of military personnel.”