By Sanna Camara
The Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP) has argued that the passing of the new electoral [amendment] law in The Gambia by the ruling-party-dominated parliament is meant to create a one party state.
The amendment to the Gambia’s Election Act increased the deposit for presidential candidates from D10, 000 (about $250) to D500, 000 (about $12,500); National Assembly members from D5, 000 ($126) to D50, 000 (about $1260) and mayoral candidates from D2, 500 (about $63) to D25, 000 (about $630).
Despite protests from the local opposition and civil society groups, the said amendments were passed into law on the 7th July, 2015. “… [We] condemn in the strongest and unequivocal terms the latest attempt by President Yahya Jammeh to create a one party state with the passing of the new electoral law that was secretly signed into law,” GPDP media release said.
A threat to democracy
The Europe based opposition leader, who is breaking the silence over political happenings in the country for the first time in years, said the amendment “is the most undemocratic attempt yet again” by the Gambia’s electoral agency (IEC) and President Jammeh.
“[The] sole aim is to stop Gambians from exercising their God given rights. My Party will never ever be part of a scheme like that.” Party Secretary General, Henry Gomez said.
“The new electoral law is not only a threat to democracy and good governance but an action geared towards denying us Gambians our constitutional rights to vote and be voted into office,” he further stated.
NRP participation strengthened the new law
The passing of the amendments coincided with a national assembly by-election, in which the only opposition party that participated against the ruling APRC won overwhelmingly.
This has been described as “unfortunate” by the GPDP leader, who believes the opposition NRP’s participation despite boycott by the rest of the opposition, has helped “strengthened” the new law.
“Reading between the lines, one will quickly realise that, the Lower Saloum elections were a façade used to cover the true intentions of the incumbent which was nothing else other than a show just to fool the Gambians again.
“What obtained in Lower Saloum was facilitated by those who are pretentiously using the banner of an opposition party without taking into consideration the realities on the ground,” Mr. Gomez said.
In his view, the results stemming from the Lower Saloum elections “have caused more confusion than paving a way forward. When in actual fact the real issue should have been touring and sensitizing the electorates while challenging the IEC and the incumbent to play by the rules.”
Calls for electoral reforms
According to the GPDP, their position on the call for electoral reforms remains the same: “Our party in collaboration with the other opposition parties will continue to demand for those electoral reforms to ensure that there is no abuse from the incumbent as seen previously.”
On the IEC, Mr Gomez said the Independent Electoral Commission has been turned into a propaganda powerhouse by Jammeh and his government.
“The current chairperson Al Mustapha Carayol is illegally occupying the office in contravention of the constitution. He has served more than two terms which is already unlawful,” he argued.
Constitutionally, the Chairperson of the IEC cannot serve more than two terms in office. |Logically, an arbiter whose position is illegal cannot guarantee that he will remain impartial while performing his duty,” Gomez further argued.
“This latest attempt is aimed at further muzzling the opposition parties ahead of the 2016 elections. In fact, my party doesn’t believe in free and fair elections come 2016,” the statement said.