Gambian Diaspora Vote in Dec. 2021 – A Civil Society Organization Puts IEC to Task
Gambia’s civil society organization “The Right to Know” (R2K) demands, in a letter “The Chronicle” got a copy, that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) clearly spell out the critical aspects of the management of the coming elections processes. With less than 235 days to go before the December 2021 elections and the National Assembly elections in 2022, R2K believes that the fundamental issues of credibility, transparency and ability to deliver free and fair elections depend on the IEC aptitude to address proper planning and timely information to the public.
On 17th October 2016 and 16th September 2019) R2K wrote to chairman Alieu Momarr Njie requesting that IEC normalize the issue of diaspora voting, and respect the rights of the Diaspora to participate in the electoral processes. None of the letters got a reply from IEC.
This time, the Civil Society group demands that the IEC avail the voter registration regime to Gambians, both in and outside of the country. R2K also asks that the IEC present a road map as to how it intends to deploy the elections calendar.
“We are anxious that without proper planning, and timely information on these fundamental questions, issues of credibility, transparency and ability to deliver free and fair elections by the IEC arise. In the current national context, where political tensions and suspicions amongst political parties and their supporters run high, combined with the largest number of political parties and independent candidates being registered in our history, the stakes and risks remain a real threat to peace and stability if elections are not properly managed”.
On January 27th, the Supreme Court of The Gambia ruled that every Gambian, including those residing outside the jurisdiction, are entitled to register for and vote in every election and referendum. The ruling has since increased pressure on the IEC to extend voting to the Gambia diaspora. “The Right To Know” Gambia civil society group now insist that IEC includes Gambians abroad in the voting process.
“We are faced with the fact that there is now a court ruling, which compels you to rectify the policy of Diaspora disenfranchisement that the IEC and Gambia government had actively practised since the dawn of the Second Republic. The courts have affirmed the rights of every Gambian (in and outside of the country) to vote and be voted for, as stated in the constitution,” R2K says.
The Civil society organization, therefore, asks that Alieu Momar Njie and his team provide information on an elections road map detailing “If and when IEC will conduct an external census to capture the number of Gambians residing abroad to register them as voters (if they so choose)”. R2K also demands a date for the registration process at the national and international level (for the Diaspora) the dates and timelines for the above.
R2K also queries the rationality of the upward revision of deposits for citizens vying for political office, which was included in the recently tabled Elections Bill, 2021. The Civil society organization wants IEC to consult the Government, registered political parties and the people before imposing colossal hikes in the deposits