By Omar Bah
The 16 political parties that attended the Inter-Party Committee meeting last week to debate on the Elections Bill have unanimously recommended that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should not seek legal advice from the Attorney General’s office on matters that deal with elections. The politicians instead recommended that the commission have an independent legal department of people with impeccable integrity to be advising it on legal matters.
This, the political parties said, will ensure the complete independence of the IEC.
The representatives of the political parties argued that seeking legal advice from the Attorney General could undermine IEC’s independence.
The Committee is the body that stands to bring all political parties in The Gambia under one umbrella with a view to fostering peace, tranquility, tolerance and political decency.
Though subsection 2 (g) of the Bill provides that the IEC is responsible for issuing permits for political rallies in consultation with the Inspector General of Police, the political parties however said the police should only be notified for necessary security arrangements and not necessarily consulted. The IPC members also want prisoners to be allowed to vote, adding “eligibility requirements to vote should be based on being a Gambian.”
The Elections Bill 2020 maintained Section 109 (5) which states “a political party shall declare to the Commission, its income and assets and their sources” but the political parties argued that the part which requires them to disclose their sources of income should be omitted.
The IPC members further want section 154(2) which states the Commission may make rules generally for the better carrying out of the provisions of the Act amended to read: “The Commission may make rules generally for the better carrying out of the Provisions of this Act, and shall in particular make rules in consultation with the Inter-Party Committee.”
According to the IPC members, their committee should be made a statutory body with the mandate to make reservations on the appointments of Commissioners of the IEC.
The IPC also called for the IEC to come up with a more efficient voter registration in order to avoid double registrations.
The review of the bill couldn’t be completed on the two scheduled two-day periods and as a result, the IEC is planning to schedule a new date to complete discussions which will be followed by a media conference.