By Omar Bah
The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission has revealed his office’s plans to advocate not just for voting rights for Gambians in the diaspora but their own representation in the National Assembly.
Alieu Momarr Njai was speaking at the opening of a five-day workshop organized by West Minister Foundation to promote inclusiveness in Gambia’s governance for marginalised groups like women, youths and disables.
The Gambian constitution has recognised the rights of citizens in foreign countries to vote but such an exercise has never happened.
Njai informed the gathering that former president Yahya Jammeh has never taken interest in the voting rights of diaspora because of his unpopularity among them.
“Even though it is in the constitution that Diaspora should vote, but because of the fact that 90% of them will not have voted for the previous Government, we were never allowed to implement that. But now what we are planning to do is to make sure that the diaspora not only vote but be voted for in parliament,” Njai said.
Although the diaspora representation in the lawmaking body is not constitutional, Njai said reforms to include such changes in the electoral laws are high on their agenda.
Neighboring Senegal, according to Njai, has up to 15 members of parliament for diaspora, adding that Gambia could have 2 or 3.
Since the regime change in December 2016, the new government whose campaign was largely funded by diaspora said it recognized it as the country’s eighth constituency but is yet to extend voting to them. “The electoral reforms will be in the form of countrywide public consultation. Issues like constituency demarcation, diaspora voting, and mode of voting will be discussed,” he said.
The IEC is also planning to shift the country’s voting system to ballot papers from using drums and tokens.
The West Minster Foundation has launched a programme in Gambia in November 2018 to sensitise political parties on importance of including women, youths and disables in decision-making positions.