By Omar Bah
The national electoral body has announced that it has no plans to conduct a presidential election next year.
Independent Electoral Commission chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, told The Standard in an exclusive over the weekend that his institution has not received any missive from the Barrow government putting it on notice to convene the election.
He said the IEC is mandated to organise a presidential election every five years and unless there is a law to change that, they have to assume that the next election will be in 2021.
The ruling Coalition government agreed on a three-year transition period and went on to defeat Jammeh in the 2016 election. However, President Barrow has said he intends to stay for five years and this has caused rancour among the Coalition parties with many already elbowed out of the government.
Chairman Njai told this paper: “As far as the IEC is concerned, the law as it stands, provides for elections every five years, even though I understand that there was this understanding between the Coalition parties that they will have a transition period of three years. But as far as we are concerned, there is no change. As we speak, we have to assume that the five years still stands. [But] if we want to have it [election] next year, we will be ready.”
Calls for resignation
Reacting to his critics who accused him of being geriatric and prone to making mistakes, Chairman Njai, 83, said he is not considering stepping down.
“My critics have the right to their own opinions but as far as I am concerned, I’m doing my best and will continue to do my best. They have the right to criticise because one cannot satisfy everybody. But I will continue doing what I am asked to do fairly and transparently,” he asserted.
On the IEC’s mistakes in announcing the results of the past elections, Njai said people do not expect him to go through all the results to cross check them before making the final announcement because he assumed that those responsible for counting and collation would have done all what they were supposed to do before the results reached him.
“Because of that, some people are saying I should resign. It is just like when the police prosecutor goes to court and loses a case, does that mean the IGP or the Interior Minister should resign? No. We want Gambians to understand that the IEC is not under the influence of anybody,” he explained.
He said under the new Gambian dispensation even village alkalolu are not put under political pressure to influence their decisions.
The IEC chairman also disclosed that the proposed paper ballot will be captured in the new constitution being drafted for the Third Republic.
He said the commission will soon embark on a nationwide tour to sensitise the electorate on the paper ballot and reassure them that the body will continue to be transparent.