By Olimatou Coker
Ambassador Johannes Makouvia, head of mission of the International Police Chaplain Sustainable Development and Enforcement (IPCSL) has urged the Gambia Government to ban traffic on election day in future elections.
“We have observed that during election day the traffic and the markets were busy making it difficult for voters to reach their polling station. We are worried that it might be part of the reasons why the country experienced low voter turnout in the councillor’s election,” he told journalist at a press conference jointly organised by the IPC held at the NYC office.
He said the IPCSL deployed 79 observers to different electoral zones during the election day to observe the voting and counting.
“Our observers also concentrate on voter turnout as a key indicator of any healthy democratic dispensation. We that voter turnout was relatively low which demonstrated the lack of civic engagement of Gambians in the electoral process,” he said.
He added that the voting procedures were generally respected by polling staff under the guidance of party polling agent.
The mission noted the active presence of party agents of the main political parties, who carried out their monitoring role with professionalism and responsibility contributing to the transparency of the poll.
“The issue of women participation was a major issue in this election and was closely monitored by the observer mission. The IPCSL noted that although efforts have been made to promote women participation, there are still limited women polling staff and party agents. This required continued attention and additional measures to promote their active participation in the electoral process,” he said.
He said the outcome of the election was overall satisfactory despite some logistical, organisational and turnout challenges.
“Transparency, fairness and accountability were the hallmarks of the electoral process, reflecting the democratic will of the people,” he added.
The group urged the government to take the necessary measures to ensure greater participation of civil society in the entire electoral process, including encouraging their involvement and facilitating their access to voting centres, ensure that there is a ban on activities and traffic on polling day, to allow for a high level of participation by the population and the provision of activity and traffic restrictions on polling day to allow for a high turnout.
Turning to Independent Electoral Commission, the group urged the electoral body to continue interactions with candidates and political parties to build confidence in the electoral process, which in turn builds the social fabric, strengthen the capacity of electoral staff in terms of training and organization of the poll and the provision of signature sheets for the traceability of observers in the polling stations.
The international observer mission also urged politicians to always use legal channels to resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with the law, favor political dialogue in all circumstances to preserve social peace and avoid post-election tensions and ensure better training and representation of their delegates and activists in the polling stations in order to guarantee a transparent and fair election.