CRC Dialogue: IEC Appointments and Presidential Age Limits Take Center Stage
The issues of presidential term limits and appointments of the Chairman and members of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have always attracted debate in Gambia’s political circle.
Over the weekend, the two issues took center stage at a consultative meeting between the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and the political parties as part of the constitutional review process.
In his proposal, the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) said representatives of the IEC should come from civil society organizations. Ousainou Darboe told the meeting that he had no problem with the president appointing the IEC chairman.
He also proposed that the IEC be vested with the responsibility of demarcating constituency boundaries, arguing that “there is big difference in terms of number of electorate from one constituency to another”. He cited Kombo North and Janjangbureh as examples.
On proposals that political parties should submit their audited accounts to the IEC, Darboe said “the fact that the state is not sponsoring political parties means it should not be an obligation for parties to submit their accounts to the IEC.”
Mai Ahmed Fatty, the leader of the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) concurred. According to him, political parties should not submit their financial report to the IEC if government is not giving them money. “No taxation without representation,” he said.
The GMC leader said the IEC commissioners should be subjected to public scrutiny before their appointment. He also proposed that the constitution should deter non-Gambians from funding political parties.
For Ousman Sillah, a lawmaker and representative of the Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), there should be an establishment of a special service commission that will be responsible for the appointment of the IEC Chairman and commissioners. He argued that such a commission will ensure transparency and neutrality as far as matters of the commission are concerned. Sillah also asked that commissioners have a term limit of 10 years.
The leader of the former ruling APRC, Fabakary Tombong Jatta said “it will be imperative for persons appointed as IEC Chairman and commissioners to declare their assets before holding such positions.” According to him, that will promote transparency and enhance vibrant democracy for the country.
Jatta also suggested that the current constitutional provision on the seven year-term for appointed IEC commissioners and the Chairman be upheld, and constituency demarcation be left in the hands of the IEC.
Filly Susso of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) proposed that the president should appoint the IEC Chairman.
For Dr. Demba Sabally of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), political party funding should be liberalized. He argued that the source of funding for political parties should not be the business of the state.
The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) said only people with high integrity and academic qualifications should be appointed as commissioners of the IEC. Its representative Kebba Jallow called for the commission to maintain its name and remain independent.
On the question of age limits for presidential contenders, UDP’s Darboe said age should not be an issue. APRC’s Jatta also said there should be no age limit for presidency. But for Amie Sillah of PDOIS, presidential age limit should be set for 30 to 80 years.
While NRP’s Filly Suso said there should not be any academic requirement for the presidency, NCP’s Kantong Gassama said minimum presidential academic requirement should be a university degree.