With the humiliating defeat and thrashing of the Draft constitution 2020 of The Gambia, which was one of the pillars of the New Gambia, it is time for a paradigm shift to the Election bill 2020 before it reaches our lawmakers.
This Election Bill 2020 was supposed to be progressive, all-inclusive and encourage universal participation of all and sundry across the political, social and economic class. Skimming through the bill makes me wonder and ask loudly with dismay is the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) a money making and profit seeking entity in the new Gambia? Lest we forget, we have previously denounced the hefty amounts placed on candidates vying for office – what has changed?
Another question – is the election bill 2020 meant to say that Gambian politics is no longer for the poor to seek the mandate of their people? How does the IEC and the government in general intend to promote an all inclusive and the participation of all in the political arena? Are the poor only good at voting and watching from the sidelines?
The amount of one million dalasis for party registration, one million dalasi for presidential deposit, fifty thousand for National Assembly, Mayoral and Chairperson as well as 10,000 for Councillors – are these fair amounts considering the income bracket of the average employee? Does this not give way for corruption or a perception of people being corrupt immediately they win the seats to pay up the huge debts they incurred prior coming to office? Are we not encouraging corruption even before being sworn in?.
These exorbitant amounts are worrisome as the poor who struggles, campaign during election and decide for The Gambia cannot take part for the highest electable offices in the land. This discrimination and disqualification due to poor financial status despite great credentials is morally bankrupt and unacceptable. The cost for a party presidential candidate is explicitly mentioned in the Election Bill 2020 however cost to an independent candidate is left for IEC determination which leaves a lot room for controversy.
Political parties have a lot on their plates and they are here to stay and should be treated as respectable development partners of this country. If political parties with all the legally financial and logistical cost are paying a hefty amount for their candidates, Independent candidate with less or none logistical and financial responsibility should pay a lot more in the spirit of fairness.
Another major concern is why are the deposits of presidential candidates who pulled at least 15% of the votes instead of the required 40% not return? We all know that the IEC is subvented and mostly sponsored by the foreign organizations. why is the IEC bent on keeping the deposits and narrowing the electoral space?
Why are political parties not subvented by the government yet they are expected to show their sources of revenue – is this not giving power to incumbency?
I submit to you that the election bill 2020 doesn’t promote transparency it plans to take us back to the days of darkness. The spot counting created a transparent environment however, the new bill intends to remove that and create an environment of doubt and mistrust. Transparent election requires the continuation of spot counting which will reduce tension in a post election atmosphere. We need SPOT COUNTING period – if we could do that in 2016, why not in 2021.
In conclusion, I submit to you that voting should be made easier on the electorates and not difficult at all or else we shall encounter low voter turn out and post election crises.
Looking at our political field those who generally votes are the elderly and women and most of them will face this difficult process to go through. The IEC said they will embark on a robust campaign to sensitize the people but that campaign has halted due to the Corona virus pandemic. This is a major reason for the IEC to go ahead with the marble voting which does not require much sensitization as Gambians are very familiar with the process.
I call on the IEC to reconsider this paper voting to the general election of 2026. By then, they will have the whole time in the world to do a proper sensitization to educate the masses.
I make the above submission with the hope that we will work together for the interest of The Gambia.
Assistant admin secretary,
GDC National Executive