The terse announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, postponing until further notice the much-anticipated voter registration exercise, is not a great start to calendar that will culminate into the all-important presidential election in December. Even more worrying is the lack of adequate explanation in the announcement as to what exactly led to the postponement and the very vague timetable of until further notice.
The IEC must realise that there is no room for mediocrity in this year’s election where the stakesare unprecedentedly high.
This is the year, after many years when all eligible Gambians are expecting to access voter’s card in a general registration and these include hundreds of thousands of new voters. Again, it is this year too when for the first time, Gambians living outside the country will be registered.
Given that elections are so sensitive now that they have become in most part of the world a matter of life and death issue, it is very important that the body responsible for conducting this entire exercise is seen to be trust-worthy and competent.
This is more so in the case of the current IEC, which has some extra work to do to convince all and sundry that it is up to the job despite very serious mistakes in the past elections which any bad loser could capitalise on to let hell break loose. The case in point is the 2016 presidential election where the wrong figure was announced for each of the three candidates. Even though this was a genuine mistake (as all stakeholders, including political parties and observers have got the right figure from the polling stations indicating that Adama Barrow had won with a little over 18 ,000 votes) the mistaken figures given by the IEC gave license to Jammeh to attempt to dispute the results which he himself knew and accepted was transparent. Had it not been the concerted efforts of Gambians, most importantly the international community, this incident could have spelt disaster for the country and it would have been the fault of the IEC.
Secondly, in the last local Government elections, a similar mistake happened when the IEC announced more councilors for the GDC than they actually had. The GDC of course had the right figures and duly notified the IEC about the error, instead of capitalising on it to make hell.
These mistakes may have been unintentional but they could have been costly and therefore they must never be repeated. And since election is everybody’s business, we want to remind the IEC that the job in their hands is not an easy task and they must up their game to do an excellent job this time when the stakes are higher than ever before. It is therefore necessary that the IEC engages all stakeholders and gives adequate explanation on every stage of the process right down to the election itself. This is a matter of great importance and we hope that the commissioners and staff of the IEC are vigilant to the concerns of the people of The Gambia.