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Thursday, November 26, 2020

IEC: Using marbles in 2021 will be a nightmare

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By Omar Bah

The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission has said conducting the 2021 presidential election using marbles would be a nightmare and a near impossible task for the electoral body.

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Alieu Momarr Njai said the exercise would be even more difficult with the proliferation of political parties in the country.

“The headache we have now is that in the past, there have been only 3 or 4 presidential contestants but now we have 16 political parties and we are expecting some independent candidates. So, there is a possibility of about 20 candidates for the 2021 presidential election. Imagine how many ballot boxes would be needed to serve every polling station in The Gambia,” Njai told The Standard.

Some Gambians, among them political parties have spoken openly against the IEC’s plans to introduce paper ballot in the 2021 presidential election arguing that Gambian voters are not mentally prepared for it.

Speaking further in defense of the paper ballot, Chairman Njai said: “The IEC cannot and has no intention to impose the paper ballot on Gambians. But one thing clear is that voting with the marbles in 2021 with all these political parties would be nearly impossible and would even make it complicated to transport all those ballots overseas for the diaspora voters.”

He said nothing is conclusive just yet but they are still engaging the relevant stakeholders.

“It is not a matter of whether the voters are sensitised or not. What is clear is that the whole world and even our neighbours Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and Senegal are all using paper ballots. I see nothing that should stop us from using the paper ballot,” he said.

Chairman Njai said if the new constitution is to go through and the IEC were to conduct both the presidential and the parliamentary elections on the same day, they would be using hundreds of ballots which would make it nearly impossible with marbles.

“Yes, we agree there should be a massive sensitisation but as far as we are concerned, the paper ballot is the way forward. We are confident that we can go ahead with it. But we are also aware that we cannot go ahead with the paper ballot if the current laws remain,” he said.

He said the ballot paper is as transparent as the marble.

“Our system is such that no one can invade it. No one can rig elections in this country especially with the spot counting. That is not possible. Our system is very good and transparent. We give all the political parties the lists of voters in every polling station. That makes it impossible to rig the election,” he said.  Njai downplayed reports of irregularities in the Kerr Jarga and Niamina West by-elections, saying both contests were held transparently.

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