The Minister of Justice has tabled the Elections Bill, 2021, for a first reading before the National Assembly. As introduced by the government, the electoral legal framework project seeks to make some amendments to The Gambia’s current election laws. The proposed changes have gerrymandering features on the one hand and a stylish appeal to keep some provisions of the status quo on the other hand.
For example, under the proposed Elections Bill 2021, a presidential candidate “shall deposit or cause to be deposited with the Returning Officer the sum of 500,000.00” (five hundred thousand dalasis). A Member of the National Assembly’s candidate “shall deposit or cause to be deposited with the Returning Officer the sum of 50,000.00” (fifty thousand dalasis). A candidate for Mayor or Chairperson “shall deposit or cause to be deposited with the returning officer the sum of 50,000.00” (fifty thousand dalasis). And a Councilor candidate “shall deposit or cause to be deposited with the Returning Officer the sum of 10,000.00” (ten thousand dalasis).
There is almost no change to the July 7th, 2015 bill amending The Gambia’s Elections Act. Among the many adopted amendments to the 2015 bill, presidential candidates are to deposit D500,000, National Assembly candidates D50,000, candidates for Mayor D50,000, and ward councillors D10,000.
The devil in the details of the electoral reshape
The 2021 Elections Bill also makes the registration process less prone to fraud. It also allows Diaspora Gambians to register and vote. Unfortunately, there are no allocated constituencies for the Diaspora. With the bill seeking to reshape the constituencies’ demarcation, some existing electoral jurisdictions will be split into two constituencies when the proposed law merges others into one constituency. The gist is everywhere in the 52 electoral boundaries catered for and explicit enough to provoke another Parliament row.
The Electoral bill 2021 only caters for one representation to Busumbala, Yundum, and SanneMentereng that have a combined roll of 120,351 voters. Yet, Foni has only 33,803 voters, but it keeps its five electoral constituencies for a voter population that is less than Busumbala, Yundum, and SanneMentereng, which is 120,351 voters.
The other example is Banjul that retains its three constituencies in a combined number of 22,731 voters. But the 2021 Elections bill intends to scrap the Tumana constituency and its consolidated voter population of 16,966 voters, which is beyond specific constituencies of Banjul.
Bundung, Jeshwang, Latirkunda Sabiji, Serekunda West, Tallinding are each split into two Constituencies. The bill scraps all the new Constituencies in the Kombos. It also separates Kombo East and Kombo South into two more electoral jurisdictions. Meanwhile, Kombo North and Kombo Central will be each a stand-alone constituency. The proposed law intends further to merge Wuli East and Wuli West into one constituency. Busumbala, Yundum, and Sanimentereng will constitute a single constituency. The constituency of Tumana will no longer exist.
The 2021 Elections Bill will go through the National Assembly’s vetting stages, the second, third reading, and committee stage before considering it to become our elections law.