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Thursday, October 1, 2020

OJ BACKS IEC’s PROPOSED ELECTORAL REFORMS BUT…

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Mustapha Carayol, chairman of the IEC, last month assured the lawmakers that his institution is ready and willing to conduct the much-awaited boundary demarcation, hold presidential and local government elections on the same day and substitute marbles with ballots papers. 

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Speaking to The Standard at his residence at Pipeline, the leader of the former government, now in opposition, said: “I want to commend the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission for coming up with such a proposal and making himself amenable. This is a good step towards the building of a democratic dispensation in The Gambia.”

According to him, ‘proper demarcation’ of the electoral constituencies would not only guarantee fair elections, but would also ensure proper representation of the people. 

“The present set-up has made certain constituencies underrepresented. For example, the Kombo North constituency has over one hundred thousand registered voters while Georgetown has less than two thousand registered voters. And these two constituencies are represented by one person each at the National Assembly. This is not fair and is grossly undemocratic. This is gerrymandering!

“Therefore, the reform proposal of the IEC chairman should be honoured by the National Assembly. They could make sure that the powers to demarcate constituencies are given to the IEC. The National Assembly should amend the electoral laws to make them more democratic and fair. The chairman’s proposal on having both elections on the same day is equally welcomed because this is what was happening before the July 22nd takeover. That will not only reduce the cost of elections, but also the influence of the incumbency in the parliamentary elections. It will also reduce voter apathy during the parliamentary elections. 

“Equally important is his proposal to move from marble voting to ballot papers because that is what is happening in other countries and I don’t see a reason the National Assembly should hesitate to help the IEC accomplish these reform objectives.”

However, the PPP chief said the proposed reforms did not had failed to address some of the concerns of the opposition, calling for access to the national broadcaster, GRTS, for the opposition. 

He added: “The IEC should also be able to stop members of state institutions like the civil service, the army, the police and others, from showing partisan support for the ruling government. Without these, elections in this country cannot be free and fair. And the other point which is very important is for the IEC to stop the attestation process for voter eligibility. Because it is inconceivable for just five people in a town or village to attest for the entire population of an area to have a voter’s card on the basis that they know them. You cannot know all the people in a town or village. The ARPC political establishment should work on these reforms in ensuring that The Gambia becomes that democratic country we all want it to be.”   

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